Our View: Survey results encouraging; work remains
January 12, 2011
Steamboat Springs — There was some good news this week from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which more than 600 Steamboat Springs seventh- through 12th-graders took in spring. A smaller percentage of Steamboat teens reported ever drinking alcohol — the largest decrease from 2008 was 38 percentage points, among eighth-graders — and numbers were flat or lower for binge drinking. Tobacco use decreased in many groups, also, although marijuana use remained flat or increased.
Those positive trends are good news for the schools, our communities and Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, which administered the survey. But before we pat ourselves on the backs, we should remember that the campaign against teen substance abuse is ongoing. For example, 78 percent of 11th-grade students reported using alcohol in their lifetime, indicating that youths who abstain from alcohol throughout high school are the exception rather than the rule. Information from the senior class was unreliable because only 45 participated in the optional survey.
Another alarming figure is the number of Steamboat students who had been passengers in a car in the preceding month with someone who had been drinking. The figures decreased 18 percentage points for 10th-grade students, but it increased for seventh-, eighth-, ninth- and 11th-grade students.
Even frightening results are useful for parents, who need a realistic view of potential dangerous behaviors their children or their classmates might be involved in. The figures also are useful to the community as it works toward overall health and safety of the population. That's why we wish Grand Futures and the school districts would work together to release the information faster so action can be taken rapidly. These results are from students surveyed in spring, leaving a dated set of data.
Grand Futures, which serves Moffat, Grand and Routt counties and works to promote healthy lifestyles through alternatives to substance abuse, has positive steps planned to address the issues raised, including parent education workshops on topics relating to teens' safety.
We're glad to see that, and we hope the school district and Grand Futures continue to examine the survey results and act on them. The community has a great opportunity to use real data to form partnerships and ensure that risky behaviors among our youths are on a solid, consistent decline.