Problem: Priority health-risk behaviors, including tobacco use, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and physical inactivity often are established during childhood and adolescence, extend into adulthood, are interrelated, and are preventable. These behaviors contribute to chronic disease and other health conditions, including asthma.
Reporting period covered: January--May 2007.
Description of system: The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors priority health-risk behaviors and the prevalence of obesity and asthma among youth and young adults. YRBSS includes a national school-based survey conducted by CDC and state and local school-based surveys conducted by state and local education and health agencies. In 2007, as a component of YRBSS, communities participating in the Steps Cooperative Agreement Program (Steps Program) also conducted school-based surveys of students in grades 9--12 in their program intervention areas. These communities used a standard questionnaire that measured tobacco use, dietary behaviors, and physical activity and monitored the prevalence of obesity and asthma. This report summarizes results from surveys of students in 26 Steps communities that conducted surveys in 2007.
Results: Results from the 26 Steps communities indicated that a substantial proportion of adolescents engaged in health-risk behaviors that increased their likelihood of becoming obese. During 2007, across surveys, the percentage of high school students who had ever smoked at least one cigarette every day for 30 days ranged from 3.7% to 20.1% (median: 9.0%), the percentage who had eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day during the 7 days before the survey ranged from 13.9% to 23.9% (median: 17.9%), and the percentage who met recommended levels of physical activity ranged from 27.7% to 55.5% (median: 40.1%). Across surveys, the percentage of students who were obese ranged from 4.6% to 20.2% (median: 13.6%), and the percentage of students who had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they had asthma ranged from 16.8% to 28.5% (median: 21.6%).
Interpretation: Although the prevalence of many health-risk behaviors and health conditions related to obesity and asthma varies across Steps communities, a substantial proportion of high school students engage in behaviors that place them at risk for chronic disease.
Public health action: Steps Program staff at the national, tribal, state, and local levels will use YRBSS data for decision making, program planning, and enhancing technical assistance to reduce tobacco use and exposure and to increase healthy eating and physical activity. These data will be used to help focus existing programs on activities that have shown the greatest promise of results, as well as identify populations of greatest need and opportunities for strategic collaboration to identify and disseminate lessons learned.