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Starting in 2020, student health data is being collected through the Student Health Survey.

Frequently Asked Questions about Oregon Healthy Teens Survey

What is the goal of Oregon Healthy Teens?

Healthy students have better attendance, get higher grades and test score and are less likely to skip school, drop out or engage in risky behaviors. The Oregon Healthy Teens Survey is a comprehensive, school-based, anonymous and voluntary survey that is a key part of a state-wide effort to help local schools and communities ensure that all Oregon youth are healthy and successful learners who contribute positively to their communities.

OHT provides schools, communities, and our state with a clearer picture of youth strengths and problems. The OHT Survey allow schools and communities to find out what prevention efforts are working and which need improvement, with a particular emphasis on tobacco prevention. Our goal is to do what the name says: give our teens the support they need to live healthy lives. State and local agencies depend on OHT to assess youth needs, develop comprehensive plans and prevention programs, solicit funding, and measure outcomes.

Are sensitive questions asked?

Our goal is to reduce those behaviors among high school and middle school students that adversely affect their health and ability to learn. Some questions may be considered sensitive. AIDS, HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted diseases are major health problems. Sexual intercourse and intravenous drug use are among the behaviors known to increase the risk of HIV or other STDs. The only way to determine if adolescents are at risk in these areas is to ask questions about these behaviors. Mental health, attempted suicide, harassment, tobacco, alcohol and other drug use, and weapon carrying may be considered sensitive topics.

Questions are age appropriate and are presented in a straightforward and sensitive manner. Students can also choose to not answer any question that may make them uncomfortable.

Does asking questions about a behavior encourage that behavior?

No. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that there is no evidence that simply asking students about health risk behaviors will encourage them to try that behavior.

In addition, asking sensitive questions can bring good news, such as recent Oregon Healthy Teens findings that show a reduction in sexual activity and tobacco use among Oregon teens.

Kids don't always tell the truth, how do we know results are accurate?

Protecting student confidentiality and anonymity is paramount. Students must see the survey as important and know that procedures are in place to protect their privacy and anonymity. Studies have shown that surveys such as OHT give more accurate results than those where students believe their answers can be traced (and so are more likely to say what they think we want to hear). Survey data from adolescents is as reliable as data collected from adults. Internal reliability checks help identify and remove the small percentage of students who falsify answers.

How will my family's privacy be protected?

This survey is anonymous.  Survey administration procedures are designed to protect student privacy and allow for anonymous participation. Students will not put their names or other identifying information on the questionnaires or answer sheets.  When the surveys have been completed and collected, we will have no identifying information linking a questionnaire to an individual student or parent. Summary information across grade levels will be reported to the school district.

Will any students be tracked and surveyed again to see how their behavior changes?

No. Although an individual student might participate again in future years, it will be impossible to track individual students who participate because no identifying information will be collected.

How is the OHT Survey Developed?

The Oregon Healthy Teens Survey was designed and is conducted as a collaborative effort by the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Healthy Authority. Creating a single public health statewide system for getting a scientifically accurate picture of youth development helps reduce costs and redundancies sometimes associated with the multiple school assessments conducted in the past, and provides schools and their communities with a better opportunity to use the information for longer-term planning and evaluation of their efforts to improve youth outcomes.

Who Participates in OHT?

Surveys are administered in odd-numbered years to Oregon's 8th and 11th grade students. OHT receives completed surveys from students across the entire state, totaling more than over 30,000 Oregon adolescents in 2008 and 16,000 in 2009.

What Does OHT Measure?

OHT focus areas include:

  • tobacco, alcohol and other drug use and access to substances
  • physical activity, nutrition and body weight
  • sexual risk behaviors that can result in HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancies
  • mental health concerns such as suicidal ideation, depression, harassment, and body image
  • behaviors that may result in intentional (violence and suicide) and unintentional injury (motor vehicle crashes),
  • health care access, use of school-based health centers, and screening for conditions such as asthma
  • basic demographics.

How Are OHT Data Used?

Data are used to help evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of projects and programs that promote healthy adolescence in Oregon. OHT data are a key source of state and national leading health indicators and outcome measures, such as those included in the Oregon Legislative Benchmarks and Healthy People 2010. Many Oregon counties and local communities use OHT survey information in community health assessments. Agencies, non-profit organizations, and community groups use the data to provide base-line and evaluation information required for grants and other funding sources, and for planning and evaluating activities and programs that promote health and ability to learn, prevent injury, and reduce high risk behaviors among youth.

Is student participation anonymous? How is student privacy protected?

Survey administration procedures are designed to protect student privacy and allow for anonymous participation. The survey is proctored by classroom teachers, who are given training materials on the survey protocol. Students submit a completed optically scannable survey, containing no personal identifiers, which is then placed in one envelope for the entire class. Students not participating in the survey are provided with an alternative activity by their school, usually outside of the classroom. Aggregated reports sent to schools and districts are based on the all students participating, so anonymity of students is preserved.

How long does it take to fill out the questionnaire? Is there some sort of physical test?

One class period is needed for administration of the self-administered questionnaire. It takes approximately 5 minutes for the survey administrator to distribute survey materials and read directions to the students. It then takes approximately 40 minutes for students to record their responses. No physical test or exam is involved.

Are the questionnaire and consent letter provided in other languages?

Currently, we can provide Spanish hard copies of the survey and consent letter, which schools can distribute to students not fluent in English.

Is OHT related to the "No Child Left Behind" mandates?

The focus of No Child Left Behind is on the improvement of students in academic areas. The NCLB section, Title IV-A, Safe and Drug Free Schools, requires school districts to collect data around student alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use as well as issues around violence. If funds from U.S. Department of Education (including NCLB) are used for surveys, it requires active parental permission, which is not the approach used by the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey.

Program planning and support for increasing the health and well-being of students helps those students to be ready and able to learn once they are in the classroom. Schools are generally interested in having a healthy student-body that is able to focus on their education when they are in the classroom setting.

How do parents find out about OHT?

Oregon uses an "active notification" with a "passive permission/ passive consent" model for parents. OHT requires that participating schools actively notify the parents of selected students. A letter is sent to the home of each student in the selected grade, either via a mailed letter or email, to inform the parents or guardians of the upcoming survey and give parents a chance to find out more about the survey. The state coalition for OHT suggests that each school make a physical copy of the survey available in either the main office or the counseling office, where parents could visit and view the survey.

If the school does not hear from a parent, the survey protocol assumes permission is given by the parent for their student to take the survey. If a parent does not wish their child to participate in the survey, they are asked to complete and return the parental notification form to the school to opt their student out of the survey. Schools are asked to have an alternate site and activity for those students - while their classmates take the survey. Parents can also tell their child not to take the survey. Students can also opt out of the survey on their own even if the parent had not explicitly asked them not to participate. The survey is voluntary, which is stated at the bottom of each page in the survey form.

When is the survey conducted? When are results available?

The most current survey was conducted in 2013. Read the State Report (pdf)