New Youth Health Survey Planned for Spring 2002

The McCreary Centre Society has initiated plans for a third round of its Adolescent Health Survey (AHS III), scheduled to begin early next year. The 2002 AHS III survey of students in grades 7-12 will provide up to date in­formation about the physical and emo­tional health of BC youth. Results from the new study also will reveal health trends since the last survey, AHS II, conducted in 1998. McCreary conducted the first BC Adolescent Health Survey in 1992.

AHS uses a pencil and paper questionnaire to record students’ responses to questions on health issues including exercise and nutrition, injuries, depression, and risk taking activities such as smoking, and drug and alcohol use. Other questions provide indicators of the youth’s social supports and connections with school and family. AHS II showed that young people who have a strong sense of “connectedness” are less likely to engage in risky behaviours.

The questionnaire is administered in classrooms by public health staff and takes about an hour to complete. A sample of students will be selected to reflect the population of students from all regions of the province. The survey is voluntary, and parent and school district permission is required. About 26,000 students from 43 of the provinces 59 school districts agreed to par­ticipate in the 1998 survey. Project Coordinator Aileen Murphy says the research team hopes to increase the level of participation for AHS III to ensure that as many school districts as possible are included.

An Interministry committee and a broadly-based advisory committee with representatives from the provincial government and from youth-serving organizations will guide the development of AHS III. Funding for the project is provided in part by the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Ministry of Health.

Provincial highlights from AHS II were published in a 1999 report called Healthy Connections: Listening to BC Youth. McCreary also has released a series of 22 regional reports based on the data, as well as summary fact sheets and reports on a number of special population groups and topics. (See full publication list, page 8.) In addition, McCreary sponsored a series of “Next Step” workshops to present the study results and gain feedback from young people.

AHS II reported both positive and negative aspects of youth health in BC. The data showed that teens are waiting longer to begin having sex, fewer girls are experiencing sexual or physical abuse, and more youth are using bike helmets. However, the study indicated that cigarette smoking has not decreased in this age group, and that many sexually-active young people do not take action to prevent unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. The data also showed a significant increase in marijuana use. Results from the survey were widely reported in the media and are used extensively by government and community services to plan health and education programs for adoles­cents.

Prior to beginning administration of the survey during the Spring 2002 school term, McCreary is developing information packages for school districts, parents and youth. The research group also is reviewing items used on the AHS II questionnaire and considering additional questions to generate new information about youth health status and trends.

In keeping with McCreary’s commitment to the involvement of young people in the work of the organization, an AHS III youth advisory committee has been formed. Not only will this group of young people provide valuable input into the AHS III development process but they will also develop additional tools for involving youth in advocating for the survey and in the dissemination of the survey results.

McCreary Centre Society
401 North Esmond Avenue
Burnaby, BC V5C 1S4
Tel: (604) 291-1996
Fax: (604) 291-7308