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Compared with Rest of Nation, Rhode Island Teens Making Healthier Choices, Strides in Healthy Behaviors: National Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results Released

PROVIDENCE: When comparing Rhode Island teen behavior to that of teens throughout the United States, Rhode Island fares far better with respect to reducing teen smoking, tobacco use, drinking, fighting, prescription drug use, unsafe sexual behaviors, and soda consumption. Rhode Island teens were less likely to watch television 3 or more hours a day, be obese, or be depressed, and were more likely to wear a bike helmet and attend physical education classes than their national peers.

The encouraging news is that the prevalence of several health-risk behaviors decreased over the last four years. Several key measures improved significantly from 2007 to 3013.

• Alcohol drinking fell from 43 percent to 31 percent. • Students not wearing seat belts fell from 14 percent to 6 percent. • Sexually active students fell from 33 percent to 27 percent. • Occasional smoking decreased from 15 percent to 8 percent. • Daily smoking decreased from 12 percent to 6 percent. • The use of any tobacco product fell from 22 percent to 15 percent. • Physical fighting decreased from 26 percent to 19 percent. • Dating violence decreased from 14 percent to 8 percent.

While the results of the survey are encouraging, there are areas of concern which include suicide attempts among youths, lack of daily physical activity, and unsafe weight loss practices.

"Public health is working," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of HEALTH. "Our teens are making better choices. However obstacles still remain. Many young people still engage in activities that place them at risk for serious injury and diseases that can impact them in their adult lives. Obesity is a concern. Nonetheless, I am confident that by collaborating with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), educators, and parents to develop policies that reduce risk behaviors, we will make Rhode Island teens the healthiest in the nation."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday released the national results from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). National, state, and local YRBS studies are conducted in odd years among high school students throughout the United States. These surveys monitor health risk behaviors including unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity. CDC no longer identifies states in ranking order in specific risk behaviors, but rather shows whether a state is higher or lower than the national average.

"This report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights some positive trends regarding the health and safety of our students – trends we have also seen in data we collect locally," said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Despite these positive trends, it is still alarming that nearly one of three teens in Rhode Island drinks alcoholic beverages, one of every four is sexually active, nearly one of every ten experiences dating violence. To improve student health and well-being, it is important that we continue our partnerships toward helping students adopt and maintain healthy life choices and it is especially important that we help children make these choices at an early age."

The YRBS is the only surveillance system that monitors a wide range of priority health risk behavior among representative samples of high school students. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is conducted biennially as part of a national effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health risk behaviors of the nation's high school students. The 2013 survey was administered to 2,453 students in 22 public schools in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013. Survey results are representative of 9th through 12th grade public high school students. The 99-item survey is voluntary and survey procedures protect the privacy of students. Local parent permission procedures were followed before administration, including informing parents that their child's participation was voluntary.

To view the entire CDC report, go to the CDC YRBS website at:

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