The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 30, 2013

Youth survey shows fewer risky behaviors, WRI says

Randy Griffith

WINDBER — Use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol by area high school students continues to decline, according to the latest Pennsylvania Youth Survey, allowing local public health researchers to celebrate some success.

“The prevention programs are taking hold and beginning to work,” Diana Schroeder said Tuesday at Windber Research Institute during the 2011-2012 report unveiling.  

For the first time, this year’s Youth Survey report to the community Tuesday also included adult’s views, with a recap of survey results from February’s public forum, “School and Community Safety: Lessons Learned from Sandy Hook.”

Schroeder and other public health advocates at Windber Research Institute’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention have been keeping their fingers on the pulse of area teens for more than a decade, beginning as the Cambria County Child/Adolescent Health & Wellness Council.

The youth survey has been completed every two years since 1998, tracking not only drug and alcohol use, but school violence, bullying, anti-social behavior, gambling and other issues.

On the positive side, the survey covers what it calls “protective factors” that reduce risky behavior. These include religiosity, family support and involvement in pro-social groups or programs.

An increase in school programs that reward good behavior and programs that involve students in community service was encouraging, Schroeder said.

Comparing Cambria County youth to national surveys shows lower than average levels of marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine, and hallucinogen use.

Tracking the results for more than a decade showed steady decline in smoking and use of alcohol and drugs, but sharp increase in use of smokeless tobacco, Schrader said.

The research institute breaks down the report for each participating school district and shares it with interested organizations and officials to target problem areas for further study or intervention, Schroeder said.

The report on February’s community forum survey of 124 participants representing law enforcement, education, mental health, health care and government.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.