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Sizing Up Student Health Behaviors: Global School-based Student Health Survey

The Problem

Developing countries often lack the resources and expertise to collect scientifically sound data on the risk behaviors and protective factors of their adolescent population. Such data are critical for developing and improving school health and youth health programs and policies. CDC and WHO developed the Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) to help countries measure and assess risk behaviors and protective factors among students aged 13 to 15 years.

Where We Work

  • More than 70 developing countries

Key Partners

  • World Health Organization
  • WHO Regional Offices
  • Ministries of Health and Education

The CDC Response

The survey’s core questions address the ten leading causes of sickness and death among children and adults worldwide: alcohol use, dietary behaviors, drug use, hygiene, mental health, physical activity, protective factors, sexual behaviors, tobacco use, and violence and unintentional injury. The school-based, self-administered questionnaire is translated into the appropriate language, pilot tested for comprehension, and administered during one regular class period. The survey benefits public health by providing accurate data to help countries develop priorities, establish programs, and advocate for resources for school health and youth health programs and policies; allow international agencies, countries, and others to make comparisons across countries regarding youth health behaviors and protective factors; and, understand trends among each country’s health behaviors and protective factors for use in evaluating school health and youth health promotion.


CDC collaborates with WHO to provide technical and financial support for the GSHS. Surveys have been completed in 68 countries and are in the field or ready to go into the field in 8 more countries. Another 26 countries have been trained, but are not moving forward due to lack of funds or in-country barriers. The planning and administration of the surveys are based on the following guiding principles: 1) the data are owned by the official country-level agency conducting or sponsoring the survey; 2) public health and scientific advancement are best served by an open and timely exchange of data and data analyses; 3) the privacy of participating schools and students must be protected; and, 4) data quality must be maintained.

Vision for Growth

The GSHS is an ongoing surveillance system committed to growing as big as resources allow. New survey implementation workshops and data analysis and reporting workshops for interested countries are planned for the near future. Long term public health benefits are anticipated as more countries engage in planning, administering, and analyzing the GSHS and as more countries develop the capacity to use and apply their data to improve the health choices and behaviors of their youth.

  • Page last reviewed: September 16, 2011
  • Page last updated: September 16, 2011
  • Content source: Global Health
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