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FOR RELEASE: September 30, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State of the State’s Health Interim Report Released Today
Healthy Transitions for Oklahoma’s Youth

As part of its continuing series of mid-year State of the State’s Health reports, the Oklahoma State Board of Health today released this year’s interim report: “Healthy Transitions for Oklahoma’s Youth.”

The report notes that adolescence is one of the most rapid and complex transitions in the human lifespan, a time of accelerated growth and physical change second only to infancy. It is also a time when health behaviors - both good and bad - become fixed. These health behaviors can shape future health status, life expectancy, and the quality of life. Thus, the report focuses on those health risk behaviors that typically develop in adolescence and frequently are maintained over a lifetime, including unintentional injuries and violence, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors, tobacco use, dietary behaviors, physical activity, and overweight.

Data utilized in the report came from the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted statewide by the Oklahoma State Department of Health in collaboration with the State Department of Education and local school districts. The survey measured the prevalence of various self-reported risk-taking behaviors among high-school age adolescents. While some of these data were released in December 2003, this report is the first time the Oklahoma data have been compared with similar national data.

Among the report’s findings:

While motor vehicle crashes are by far the leading cause of death for adolescents in Oklahoma, the proportion of this state’s adolescents reporting “rarely or never wearing a seat belt” as a passenger is lower than the national average. Nearly one-third, however, reported riding in a car with someone who had been drinking, and the percentage of Oklahoma adolescents reporting they have driven while using alcohol was nearly 45 percent higher than the nation.

Oklahoma adolescent males are 34 percent more likely than their national counterparts to carry weapons (knives, guns, clubs) onto school property.

Suicide is of paramount concern, with 15.4 percent of Oklahoma high school students reporting they have seriously considered attempting suicide, 13.3 percent have made a suicide plan, and 7 percent have actually attempted suicide in the past year.

Twenty-three percent of adolescent males had used smokeless tobacco within a month before the survey.

About half of the adolescents responding to the survey reported having had at least one drink of alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey; almost 40 percent of the males responding said they had had five or more drinks of alcohol within a two-hour timeframe (binge drinking).

Half of the adolescents responding reported that they have had sexual intercourse compared to the national average of 46.7 percent; 15.7 percent indicated they have had sex with at least four different people.

About a third of the adolescent participants described themselves as slightly or very overweight; 13.1 percent said they went without eating for at least 24 hours to lose weight or keep from gaining weight, and 4.7 percent vomited or took laxatives for the same purpose.

Oklahoma’s adolescents are slightly above the national average, 64.3 percent compared to 62.6 percent nationally, in the proportion participating in vigorous physical activity, yet only 37.3 percent reported being enrolled in a physical education class at school, compared to 55.7 percent nationally.

Rather than paint an unduly negative portrait of adolescents in Oklahoma, the Board of Health suggested that the report be used as an opportunity to develop and enhance those resources that will engage and support adolescents during their critical decision-making years. “In particular, we must avoid giving adolescents the impression that they are seen only as problems to be fixed rather than as resources to be developed,” the Board noted in its summary.

The Board of Health is in its eighth year of issuing an annual State of the State’s Health report and this marks the third year the Board has also published a mid-year report focusing on a specific public health issue. To read more of the report, including the Board’s recommendations for impact as well as national health objectives for adolescents, visit this Web site: http://www.health.state.ok.us/board/ir04/.

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