DASH Partner Update – March 2021
Over the past year, we have all seen schools take center stage. This spotlight has meant increased responsibility for schools and school staff. It has also meant increased dialogue about how to get students back into school buildings safely.
On January 21st, President Biden signed an executive order directing the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide guidance for safely reopening and operating schools, childcare providers, and institutions of higher education. I was thrilled to see the inclusion of mental health and social-emotional well-being in this order.
We realized early on in the pandemic that school closures and the time students would spend outside of classrooms would have implications on students’ mental health. Last summer CDC began leveraging our existing school health program model to improve student connections to mental health services and supports and to implement strategies to improve students’ connection to their school communities during a time of virtual learning. We are supporting students where they are, whether virtually, in-person, or hybrid.
Mitigation and vaccination are important tools to help get students back into school buildings. CDC is continually reviewing the evolving evidence on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in K-12 schools, as well as the latest science on the effectiveness of different prevention strategies within schools. Last week the K-12 Operational Strategy was updated to reflect the latest science on physical distance between students in classrooms and now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings. Earlier this month, HHS issued a directive that all states make Pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and childcare workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. And, these individuals can now get their COVID-19 vaccine at more than 9,000 pharmacy locations nationwide as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how vital schools are to healthy adolescents and communities. Thank you for everything you have done over the past year to ensure that our Nation’s youth remain supported, connected, and able to thrive.
Kathleen A. Ethier, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Adolescent and School Health
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Updated COVID-19 School Operational Strategy
CDC updated the Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention on Friday, March 19th to reflect the latest science on physical distance between students in classrooms. CDC now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings. This updated guidance is part of CDC’s existing resources for K-12 schools to open and remain open for in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the release of the Operational Strategy on February 12, 2021, CDC has continually reviewed the evolving evidence on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in K-12 schools, as well as the latest science on the effectiveness of different prevention strategies within schools.
- New COVID-19 Vaccination Resources for Schools and Childcare
- COVID Experiences (CovEx) Surveys
To monitor and describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, DASH has conducted the COVID Experiences (CovEx) Surveys—a pair of longitudinal surveys to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the health, mental health, and well-being of children and adolescents. The first of many manuscripts was released in last week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. DASH’s CovEx webpage will be updated as future manuscripts are published.
- New PowerPoint Slides for 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) Data Summary & Trends Report (DSTR)
CDC released PowerPoint slides that summarize key findings from the 2019 YRBS DSTR that present national data on the health behaviors and experiences that contribute to adolescent health risks. This presentation also provides trend data on sexual minority youth (SMY).
- CDC’s Adolescent Behavior and Experiences Survey
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many adolescents have experienced a disruption to their school routines. CDC is implementing an online survey, called the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey (ABES), which is an adaptation of YRBS to assess behaviors and experiences of high school students and the impact of the pandemic on their health. The survey is currently in the field and data will be released later this year. ABES results can help decision making for student support and school health programs as the United States works to emerge from the pandemic.
- New Vital Signs Report on Teen Dating Violence
CDC released a Vital Signs report on Teen Dating Violence on February 4th that highlights how teens’ experiences of violence are associated with health conditions and risky behaviors.
April 6-9: Dr. Leigh Szucs and Nick Suarez will present at the 2021 Virtual Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Conference entitled “Understanding the Evidence: A Review of School-based Substance Use Prevention Programs.”
- Impacts of Changing Sexual Behavior on Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Burden Among US High School Students, 2007-2017Rates of adolescent sexual behavior are declining in the United States. This study estimates the number of cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia averted over one decade associated with these declines, and associated costs saved. Results estimate that more than 1.1 million cases of chlamydia and more than 200,000 of gonorrhea were averted, saving more than two million dollars in medical costs over the decade.
- Medical Gender Affirmation and HIV and Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention in Transgender Youth: Results from the Survey of Today’s Adolescent Relationships and Transitions, 2018This study examines the association between receipt of medical gender affirmation services and knowledge of HIV/STD prevention services. Findings show that medical and gender affirmation services were associated with increased odds of STD testing, regardless of gender identity.
- Current Prescription Opioid Misuse and Suicide Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019This study investigates whether the association between youths’ prescription opioid misuse and suicide outcomes differs by the recency of their prescription opioid misuse. Findings suggest that, although any prescription opioid misuse (recent or in the past) is associated with increases in students’ risk for suicide-related behaviors and experiences, current use is associated with an even greater risk.
- Initiation of nonmedical use of prescription opioids among high school studentsThis study estimated the age of initiation of non-medical use of prescription opioids (NUPO) and examined associations between age at substance use initiation and current use. It also examined the order of NUPO initiation relative to other substances. Findings show that more than 12% of students reported NUPO during their life and more than 6% initiated NUPO at age 14 or younger.
- Association of Children’s Mode of School Instruction on Child and Parent Experiences and Well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic — COVID Experiences Survey, United States, October 8–November 13, 2020CDC examined differences in indicators of well-being according to children’s mode of school instruction using data from the COVID Experiences nationwide survey. Compared with parents of children receiving in-person only instruction, parents of children receiving virtual-only or combined instruction reported worse outcomes on 11 of 17 stress and well-being indicators, including child mental health, physical activity and time outside, and parental loss of work and emotional distress. Children not receiving full-time, in-person instruction and their parents might experience increased risk for negative mental/emotional and physical health outcomes and need additional support to mitigate pandemic impacts.
- American School Counselor Association Report: State of the Profession 2020
In the fall of 2020, the American School Counselor Association distributed a state-of-the-profession survey to nearly 75,000 individuals, the majority of whom were school counselors. The recently released report details the results of this survey including school counselors’ most significant challenges, response to COVID-19, and efforts to address racism and bias.
- COVID-19 Reference for School Nurses
The National Association of School Nurses recently released a new COVID-19 Reference for School Nurses. The webpage contains evidence-based information and resources designed to assist school nurses in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as they formulate nursing judgement and participate in planning and policy development.
- School-Based Strategies to Support Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health
Child Trends released a new resource that provides an overview of strategies that schools and school-based health service providers can use to better meet the sexual and reproductive health care needs of their students.
As a result of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several school districts transitioned gay-straight alliance (GSA) club meetings to a virtual environment. Virtual GSAs help maintain a strong sense of connectedness and community for LGBTQ youth during school building closures. Districts developed creative approaches to foster connection virtually. In Oakland Unified School District, students were sent queer-themed books to celebrate Pride Month. In Palm Beach County Schools, one GSA made a “Selfie Yearbook” and another held an activity with Black Trans* and Breaking the Norms coloring books.
- March 22-26: LGBT Health Awareness Week
- March 22-March 28: National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week
- April 12-16: National Youth Violence Prevention Week
- April is STD Awareness Month
- April 10: National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
- May is Mental Health Awareness Month