MARCH 29, 2017
For the best health, youth need 60 minutes of physical activity every day, but only a fraction of youth meet that target. For example, in 2015, only one in five Alaska high school students got 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
For good health, even one sugary drink a day is too much, but almost half of Alaska youth say they drank at least one sugary drink — such as a soda or sports drink — every single day.
A lack of daily activity and daily consumption of sugary drinks can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Today, too many Alaska high school students are overweight or obese.
We know all of this about Alaska teens because, like most other states, Alaska participates in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The YRBS is a paper and pencil survey of Alaska students in public traditional and alternative high schools. Alternative schools teach students who face higher risks and benefit from a non-traditional school setting. The voluntary, anonymous survey is a joint project between the Alaska Departments of Health and Social Services and Education and Early Development, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school districts, and staff.
The YRBS collects information about Alaska teens, including their behaviors that affect health. Students across the state complete the YRBS in odd-numbered years, with the 2017 YRBS taking place right now in high schools from Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to Ketchikan. About 7,000 high school students from about 30 school districts participate in the survey every other year.
“Many different organizations rely on the YRBS, including state programs, school districts, tribal organizations, and statewide and community coalitions,” said Kate Oliver, statewide coordinator for the Alaska YRBS Program. “These organizations use YRBS results for needs assessments, to design and evaluate programs, and to apply for grant funding that supports projects to improve the health and wellness of Alaska youth.”
The statewide YRBS results focus on the health and risk behaviors of both traditional and alternative high school students in Alaska. In addition, many school districts choose to conduct their own YRBS to give them information about their districts’ students. Alaska results can be compared with national YRBS data to better understand how Alaska’s doing, and historical data from the YRBS can be used to assess the risk behaviors of Alaska teens over time.
In 2015, YRBS results revealed important information about the physical activity level, time spent in front of computers and televisions, sugary drink consumption, and body weights of Alaska teens.
In 2015, 21% of Alaska traditional high school students got the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and even fewer (16%) Alaska alternative high school students met this mark. Among both groups, a higher percentage of males than females were physically active every day. Compared to U.S. traditional high school students, fewer Alaska students met the 60-minutes-a-day target. There hasn’t been a significant change in daily physical activity in over five years.
In 2015, one in three Alaska teens (traditional and alternative high school students) spent three or more hours playing video and computer games or using a computer for something other than school work on an average school day. Compared to the United States, fewer Alaska teens spend as much time in front of a screen, but Alaska is still seeing a concerning trend. Since 2007, the percentage of traditional high school students using these devices for three hours or more every day has increased significantly.
Sugary Drink Consumption
Forty-six percent of traditional high school students consumed at least one sugary drink, such as a soda or sports drink, every day in 2015. Over half (55%) of Alaska alternative high school students consumed at least one sugary drink each day.
Overweight and Obesity
In 2015, 17% of traditional high school students were overweight and 14% were obese, which was similar to national YRBS results. However, a significantly higher percentage of Alaska alternative high school students were obese (23%), as compared to traditional high school students.
Are you interested in the results of the 2017 Alaska YRBS? Watch for a preliminary report in the winter of 2017. A full 2017 YRBS report will be published in 2018. If you’d like to learn more about the Alaska YRBS, visit http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Pages/yrbs/yrbs.aspx