CDC Adolescent and School Health Surveys

Group of diverse adolescents

CDC supports adolescent and school health efforts using state-of-the-art surveillance systems designed to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on youth risk behaviors and school health policies and practices.

CDC is committed to protecting and improving the health of adolescents. Our nation’s education agencies and schools are partners in the effort to protect the health of adolescents and help educate them about how to live a healthy life now and into adulthood.

CDC’s Monitoring Systems Support School-based Health Efforts

Identification of trends in youth health risk behaviors and in school health policies and practices are strategies CDC uses to achieve its mission to improve the health and quality of life of adolescents. CDC manages surveillance systems that collect, analyze, and disseminate critical data. These systems are School Health Profiles (Profiles) and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS).

The School Health Profiles (Profiles) is a system of surveys that provides representative data on school health policies and practices in states, large urban school districts and territories. Since 1994, Profiles has been conducted every 2 years by education and health agencies among middle and high school principals and lead health education teachers to learn about the status of

  • School health education requirements and content;
  • Physical education and physical activity;
  • Practices related to bullying and sexual harassment;
  • School health policies related to tobacco-use prevention and nutrition;
  • School-based health services;
  • Family engagement and community involvement; and
  • School health coordination.

School Health Profiles 2018 Results. Assessing school health policies and practices.

Information on school health policies is gathered to help public health and education professionals identify youth risks behaviors and develop school health programs.

The most recent Profiles report pdf icon[4.12 MB], released in November 2019, found that across U.S. states, schools were more likely to teach students about suicide and violence prevention in 2018 than in 2008. HIV prevention topics are losing ground in school health education— since 2008, the percentage of schools that taught HIV prevention topics fell from 93% to 87% across states.

The report also showed that schools provide referrals to students for health services more than they provide these services on school grounds (e.g., HIV testing, STD testing, provision of condoms).  In 2018, just 2% of schools across states and 12% of schools across large urban school districts provided condoms for students, while 26% of schools across states and 31% of schools across large urban districts provided student referrals for condoms.

States and communities can use Profiles data and work with schools to implement and improve school-based health education programs that promote connectedness, support academic performance, and protect the health of youth.  Additional findings from the report and maps are available on the Profiles results web page.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) is the only surveillance system in the United States designed to monitor a wide range of priority health risk behaviors among representative samples of high school students at the national, state, and local levels. The YRBSS was designed to

  • Determine the prevalence of health behaviors;
  • Assess whether health behaviors increase, decrease, or stay the same over time;
  • Examine the co-occurrence of health behaviors;
  • Provide comparable national, state, territorial, tribal, and local data;
  • Provide comparable data among subpopulations of youth; and
  • Monitor progress toward achieving the Healthy Peopleexternal icon objectives and other program indicators.

Every other year since 1991, a representative sample of students at the national, state, and local levels complete the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The YRBS results helps health professionals understand the factors that contribute to the leading causes of illness, death and disability among youth and young adults. Approximately 15,000 U.S. high school students participated in the 2017 YRBS. The latest report included national YRBS data and data from surveys conducted in 39 states and 21 large urban school districts. In 2018, CDC released a new report, Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary and Trends Report pdf icon[16.7 MB]. This trends report uses 2017 YRBS data to focus on four priority areas closely linked to HIV and STD risk including sexual behavior, high-risk substance use, violence victimization, and mental health over the past decade. Risk behaviors co-occur, and many students experience multiple risks across the four focus areas.

How Survey Data are Used to Improve Adolescent and School Health

These surveillance systems help provide survey data to inform the work and evaluate the progress of CDC and others in meeting national goals and objectives designed to protect and improve the health of adolescents.

Timely and ongoing data collection, analysis, and dissemination help CDC meet the information needs of public health and education professionals and support efforts for continual program improvement. Some of the uses for the data collected include

  • Helping parents, school board members and administrators, teachers, and other community members determine how local school health policies and programs compare to those nationwide;
  • Determining how well school health policies and programs address important public health issues and priority health risk behaviors among students;
  • Helping to understand and evaluate whether schools are implementing policies and practices effectively; and
  • Helping states and districts determine funding priorities.