Off The Press
April 28, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Healthy Youth Survey asks questions, leaves out sex
Issaquah School District students choose, on average, to live healthier lifestyles, according to the 2008 Healthy Youth Survey.
Every other year, teens throughout the state and in the district can take the voluntary and anonymous survey.
The survey, sponsored by the state Department of Health, asks students questions about a variety of healthy and unhealthy activities, and the decisions they make for themselves.
The survey netted 3,988 respondents — 1,198 sixth-grade, 1,105 eighth-grade, 993 sophomore and 692 senior survey takers in October.
The survey began in 1988; this is the third time the district has participated.
The survey routinely shows that Issaquah students engage in healthier behaviors than their counterparts across the state.
For instance, the number of students who said they had ever smoked a whole cigarette in their lifetime was about 10 percent less than the state average across all grades. The amount of Issaquah seniors who smoked cigarettes habitually was 4 percent less than the state average of 20 percent.
Alcohol use by Issaquah students in sixth through 10th grades was between 2 percent and 8 percent below the state average.However, by senior year, the amount of Issaquah students drinking increased to about 45 percent of all seniors. Statewide, only 41 percent of seniors drink.
Issaquah’s students smoke less marijuana than their state peers on average, until their senior year. Of all seniors, 24 percent said they’d smoked marijuana in the past 30 days, whereas only 23 percent of their state peers did.
However, Issaquah students routinely chose to watch less TV, drink less soda, join fewer gangs and get in fewer fights than their peers. They also exercise more frequently.
But all of this, while good, begs the question that’s really on my mind, after a blog caught my eye involving “Issaquah’s Sexually Active Pre-Teens and Teens” last week.
If Issaquah’s children choose to participate in healthier lifestyle choices when it comes to things like drinking, drugs and exercise, would they or wouldn’t they choose to engage in healthier sexual activities?
Unfortunately, that is one thing we can’t glean from the Healthy Youth Survey, because it doesn’t ask for much information about sexual health.
The survey only asks two questions regarding sexual health, one on whether they were taught about HIV/AIDS and another about whether they were taught about ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The survey asks a bevy of questions related to depression, asthma, physical activity, diabetes, gambling and even carrying weapons.
So, why not ask questions about sexual activity?
It seems that information about how and when children become sexually active in different communities in the state would be just as important as when they have an asthma attack.
While it would be pleasant to think that children in Issaquah make healthy, knowledgeable choices regarding their sexual health — to put asunder the blog chatter of overheard teenaged “locker room” conversations at a QFC — the fact of the matter is we don’t know and likely won’t know until adults stop sidestepping the conversations.
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.