Youth Risk Behavior

The community of Burlington has a strong commitment to keep its children safe and healthy. To this end, Burlington High School in conjunction with the Burlington Family and Youth Service department has administered the Youth Behavior Risk Survey twice over the past four years and will be administering the survey for a third time this March. 

This anonymous survey is administered to 9­-12 graders. Being able to gather and share the data with the town to put in place programs and curriculum that directly meets the changing needs of our students and strengthens their health choices is critical. The committee also analyzes the survey questions and, on occasion, amends them to help clarify the data. 

An overview of the results is provided by Jim Bryne of the Northeast Health Services. In addition to the report from Jim Bryne, a subcommittee of the Wellness Committee that includes police, BHS staff and Family Youth Service staff, analyzes all the answers with the purpose of: 

-   Learning what areas our students are displaying positive decision making and healthy choices 
-   Define areas where our students may need more support 
-   Identify trends to establish proactive measures to help kids. 

Over the past four years, the survey results have impacted the High School health curriculum, helped to determine programs that could be beneficial at the High School, guided programs that the school committee might want to implement, and offered insight into programs offered through the Burlington Youth and Family Services.


2017 YRBS School Committee Recommendations

In order to best meet the needs of Burlington students, the committee feels that a tonal shift is necessary in how Burlington High School views the issue of stress management and coping skills. The majority of the risk behaviors that students in BHS partake in are directly related to their ability to identify, evaluate, and regulate stress in their lives.  Looking at this issue through a preventative lens allows us to connect the dots between our student’s ability to manage stress and utilize coping skills and their eventual choice to participate in stress related activities - such as alcohol and drug abuse, violence, unhealthy relationships, and self harming behaviors.


Traditionally, we have implemented new curricula, brought in informative guest speakers, and held workshops looking to educate our students, staff, and community on how stress management and developing/utilizing coping mechanisms can limit the negative impact stress can have on the individual.  


We look to continue these efforts, but in doing so, we must also look into how this information shows up in our practice.  With this in mind, we aim to provide students with scheduled stress reduction techniques built in to the currently developing new schedule. This “Student Wellness/Advisory” block would be used as an opportunity for the following:

  • Developing and utilizing a student advisory program

  • Identifying and implementing stress reduction techniques - physical activity, meditation, etc.

  • Informative presentations from guest speakers

  • Team building activities and community service


Additionally, the YRBS subcommittee also asks that the creation of supplementary stress reduction programs be a priority. These programs can range from after school initiatives supporting stress management and reduction, to integrating “homework free”/”event free” dates into our calendar, providing students and staff with clearly designated time periods to refresh and re-energize in preparation for the continual demands placed on them.


2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey : Burlington Report

YRBS Result Analysis and Processing of data:
YRBS Subcommittee analyzes data to determine trends and areas of concern, then aims to develop recommendations to pass along to the school committee. 
In reviewing previous YRBS recommendations from 2012, 2014, & 2016, the YRBS Subcommittee has found a history of strong follow up and support from the School Committee, and School Committee and Administration should be commended for this effort.

2017 YRBS:  Burlington Report    
The 2017 Middlesex League Youth Risk Behavior Survey was supported financially by Lahey Health, who provided funding to conduct the survey and develop a series of district-level reports for each participating school district as well as regional report for the entire Middlesex League. 
John Snow, Inc. (JSI), a public health management consulting/research organization provided technical assistance to administer the survey, collect and compile data across participating school districts, analyze the survey results, and develop the reports. 

Districts Included:
Due to the timeline involved for implementation, this year’s ML survey included the following seven school districts:
Belmont, Lexington, Reading, Watertown, and Wilmington all committed to future participation.

YRBS Implementation
The 2017 YRBS implementation was also the first time that the survey was delivered online.  This update was a welcomed one, as it provided students with an improved experience as they now were using a tool that they already were comfortable with.  It also improved implementation for administration due to decreasing the amount of time for test taking, improved our ability to track data, and create common areas for implementation.  
Additionally, the online implementation improved turnaround time on receiving results from JSI, allowing our data to be compiled and analyzed faster. 

Content Included:
The YRBS focuses primarily on the following six major health behaviors:
- Unintentional Injuries and Violence
- Mental Health
- Tobacco Use
- Alcohol and Other Drug Use
- Sexual Behaviors 
- Unhealthy Dietary Behaviors and Physical Inactivity

Burlington Student Participation:    
BHS student participation: 799 students 
BHS student ratio = 1%: 8 students

Unintentional Injury and Violence
According to the CDC,
71% of all deaths among persons aged 10-24 years resulted from one of motor vehicle crashes (23%),
unintentional injuries (17%),
homicide (14%)
and suicide (17%).  
Questions asked about the following content:  driving safety, carrying weapons, physical fighting, bullying, cyber-violence, and dating violence.  

Unintentional Injury and Violence: Summary
Compared to ML averages, BHS students fared better regarding physical violence and sexual/dating violence, but worse regarding driving risk and bullying. 

Unintentional Injury and Violence: Key Findings
Reported riding with a driver who had been drinking:
BHS:  16.8%        ML:  14.0%        MA:  18.2% 
Previous data:  14.7%-2016, 23.2%-2014, 21.6%-2012                                            
Risky electronic use while driving:
Talking on the phone:      BHS: 45.1%         ML:  38.8%
Texting/Emailing:        BHS:  34.8%        ML:  32.8%

Unintentional Injury and Violence: Key Findings

Reported that they had been electronically bullied:
BHS:  13.1%        ML:  12.1%

Reported that they had been bullied on school property:
BHS:  14.1%        ML:  12.4%

Previous data:  13.1-2016, 18.8%-2014, 22.9%-2012

Unintentional Injury and Violence: Key Findings

Reported being in a physical fight:
BHS:  12.5%        ML:  15.1%

Reported being in a physical fight on school property:
BHS:  3.1%        ML:  4.6%

2. Mental Health
According to the World Health Organization, mental health disorders are the single most common cause of disability in young people.  In the U.S., approximately 15-20% of children/adolescents are suffering from some form of mental disorder.  Furthermore, 70% of mental disorders onset prior to age of 25, making the adolescent years a critical window in which mental health can be promoted and addressed. 

Mental Health:  Summary
Compared to ML averages, BHS students fared better and reported lower rates of sadness and suicidal thoughts/behaviors.  BHS students were also less likely to be taking medicine/receiving treatment for behavioral health, mental health conditions or emotional problems to address underlying issues. 

Mental Health:  Key Findings

Reported that they seriously considered attempting suicide:
BHS:  11.7%        ML:  12.2%        MA:  14.9%
Previous data:  13%-2016, 15.5%-2014      
Reported that they made a plan about how they would attempt suicide:
BHS:  7.1        ML:  8.9%        MA:  11.9%

Reported that they had attempted suicide:
BHS:  2.7%    ML:  3.2%        MA:  7.0%
Previous Data:  9.2%-2016, 9.3%-2014, 7.3%-2012 

Reported that they did something to purposely hurt themselves without wanting to die:
BHS:  11.2%        ML:  13.1%
Previous data:  17.8%-2016, 19%-2014, 14.7-2012/

Reported that they were currently taking medicine or receiving treatment for behavioral health, mental health conditions or emotional problems:
BHS:  11.2%        ML:  13.5%

BHS students reported that the leading causes of negative stress were a “busy schedule” and “school demands/expectations” (35.7% vs 30.4% ML). BHS students reported that the most stressful part of school was “keeping up with schoolwork” (28.1%).   

3.  Tobacco

If smoking among youth in the US continues at the current rate, 5.6 million of today’s children and youth under the age of 18 will die early from a smoking related illness (1:13 children/youth).  
9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18.  
In 2015, almost a fifth of middle schoolers and nearly half of high school students said they had ever tried a tobacco product. 

3.  Tobacco:  Summary

Compared to ML averages, BHS students fared considerably better than their counterparts across virtually all areas assessed, with the only exception being that BHS students were slightly more likely to report that they currently used smokeless tobacco. 

3.  Tobacco:  Key Findings

Among BHS students:
Reported that they had ever tried cigarettes smoking:
BHS:  8.9%        ML:  14.5%
Previous data:  14.8-2016, 19.7%-2014, 22.3%-2012

Reported that they were current smokers:
BHS:  4.0%        ML:  6.7%

Reported that they smoked cigarettes frequently:
BHS:  0.8%        ML:  1.3%

Reported that they currently used smokeless tobacco:
BHS:  3.8%        ML:  3.0%

Reported that they had ever used electronic vapor products:
BHS:  30.3%        ML:  34.9%        MA:  44.8%
Previous:  18.6% - 2016

Reported that they currently use electronic vapor products:
BHS:  19.4%        ML:  23.4%        MA:  23.7%

4.  Alcohol and Drug Use
Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among American youth.  15% of teens have had at least one drink of alcohol by age 15, and 60% have had at least one drink by age 18. 
Young people consume more than 90% of their alcohol by binge drinking. 
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the U.S. amongst this age group, with prescription drug misuse growing at an alarming rate. 

4.  Alcohol and Drug Use: Summary    

Compared to ML averages, BHS students abused these substances at lower percentages in all categories except for those who reported ever using heroin or methamphetamine, with those rates equaling those of the ML region and MA. 

4.  Alcohol and Drug Use: Key Findings

Reported that they had ever drank alcohol:
BHS:  51.7%        ML:  57.8%
Previous data:  49.1%-2016, 50.1%-2014, 50.9%-2012

Reported that they currently drank alcohol (one or more times in the last month):
BHS:  26.3%        ML:  32.8%

Reported that they engaged in binge drinking:
BHS:  14.9%        ML:  20.2%

Previous data:  13.5%-2016, 16.6%-2014, 17.3%-2012 

Reported that they had ever used marijuana:
BHS:  25.5%        ML:  35.1%

Reported that they currently used marijuana (one or more times in the last month):
BHS:  15.2%        ML:  22.7%
Previous data:  14.9% 2016, 19.6%-2014, 29.6%-2012

Reported that they were offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school property:
BHS:  10.3%        ML:  11.3%
Previous data:  16.4%-2016, 18.0%-2014, 23.6%-2012

With respect to all other illicit drugs, the percentage of BHS who ever used each drug are low and range from 1.5% (heroin) to 3.2% (synthetic marijuana).  These are comparable to the ML averages and less than the MA results. 

5. Sexual Behavior & HIV/AIDS 
Sexual risk behaviors can put teens at risk for HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy.  Schools have a role to play in helping your people adopt attitudes and behaviors that support the reduction of their risks.  

5. Sexual Behavior & HIV/AIDS: Summary

Compared to ML averages, BHS students had slightly lower percentages regarding sexual activity (those currently engaging and in reporting of those who ever had), and that patterned remained consistent throughout these questions with the exception being that they reported being less likely to have received education regarding condom use in high school.

5. Sexual Behavior & HIV/AIDS: Key Findings
Reported that they had ever had sexual intercourse:
BHS:  25.6%        ML:  28.0%
Previous data:  25.1%-2016, 29.7%-2014

Reported that they are currently sexual active:
BHS:  20.3%        ML:  20.8%

Reported that they drank alcohol or used drugs before their last sexual intercourse:
BHS:  19.3%        ML:  20.8%
Previous data:  4.1%-2016, 8.3%-2014

Reported that they did not use a condom during their last sexual intercourse:
BHS:  35.6%        ML:  34.4%

Reported that they did not use any method to prevent pregnancy:
BHS:  10.5%        ML:  8.1%

Reported that they received education related to condom use:
BHS:  34.5%        ML:  44.2%

Reported that they had ever sent or received sexual messages or nude/semi nude pic/videos electronically:
BHS:  44.4%        ML:  42.7%
Previous data:  28.1%-2016, 30.4%-2014

6. Nutrition & Physical Activity
Healthy eating and physical activity are essential for the physical and mental health of youth, as they aid in maintaining a healthy body weight and lowering the risk of developing health conditions, and are associated with improved cognitive performance, reduction of symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improved mood.  

6. Nutrition & Physical Activity: Summary
Compared to ML averages, BHS students are more likely to not eat breakfast, not eat vegetables during the week, and not as likely to be physically active at least 60 min per day at all during the week.  

6. Nutrition & Physical Activity: Key Findings
Reported that they did not eat vegetables in the 7 days before taking the survey:
BHS:  5.5%        ML:  4.2%    MA:  6.0%

Reported that they missed breakfast at least once in the 7 days before taking the survey:
BHS:  89.4%        ML:  86.0%
Previous data:  11.8%-2016, 0.4%-2014, 10.8%-2012

Reported that they were not active at least 60 min per day at all during the week
BHS:  13.9%        ML:  10.5%

Reported computer/video game use for 3 or more hours per day
BHS:  40.2%        ML:  46.3%

Reported that they described themselves as overweight
BHS:  12.1%        ML:  13.2%
Previous data:  23.9%-2016

Reported that they described themselves as slightly or very overweight
BHS:  25.3%        ML:  26.5%

Previous Recommendation Update
Data from the 2016 BHS YRBS be shared with all relevant Burlington Public School staff members, including School Committee members, Department Chairs,Teachers,  Police Department and School Resource Officers, Guidance Department, Athletics staff and School Nursing Department.  A presentation should be made available at BPSCon.  Completed.

Implement a mentoring/student advisory program for all students to provide them with direct communication with an adult in the building (Q #10).  Currently in progress for implementation.                                                                                                                                            
Requested staffing in budget (school psychologists  and school adjustment counselor) as there is a current gap in services between kids who qualify for the Bridge Program (where most of our resources are aimed) and those who need mental health services and do not qualify (qualification criteria is as follows:  

[ 1 ] A diagnosed mental health disability

[ 2 ]  Be seeing a therapist regularly outside of school (or through BYFS)  

[ 3 ]  Be majorly impacted in school by their mental health condition through failing grades or major attendance issues or have returned from a recent mental health hospitalization).  An additional staff member was not added to support/guidance services. 

[ 4 ] Provide more community outreach programs/community roundtable events to inform parents about new research, trends, etc. (Parent University).  Also use these platforms to disseminate information regarding a variety of topics, including substance abuse, mental health, and the Social Host Law. Completed.  

[ 5]  Provide continued focus on re-evaluating our health curriculum, with the possibility of adding health education to the elementary levels to increase access to relevant information and skill building. Completed, specifically updating our addiction and stress management unit, and adding a puberty education inservice at the elementary level. 

[ 6 ]  Evaluate the nutritional value of available vending machines at Burlington HS/MSMS.  Pending. 

[ 7 ] Development of nutrition education resources, specifically for nurses, guidance, and athletics that are target audience specific. Formal documents have yet to be developed.  

[ 8 ]  Increase public/student awareness about breakfast offerings at BHS. Completed via student announcements. 

[ 9]  Identify opportunities to provide staff with more training regarding understanding student stress, stress management, and coping mechanisms.  Completed via BPSCon and inservice presentations. 

[ 10 ]  Continue to implement the YRBS at the High School and 7/8th grade levels in conjunction with the ML12 cycle that is being developed by the ML12 Superintendent’s Council.   Continue the review of the data and analysis, including examining results for insight to behavior trends, and reviewing questions for further exploration/additional questions to be included in the future. Completed and will continue in the future.