Healthy Kids Colorado Survey provides well-being snapshot of Routt County youth
The Routt County Youth Services Coalition compiled a one-page “snapshot” of the most recent countywide results from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey taken by middle and high school students to help local agencies align to youth needs.
The well-being snapshot, which is available online at YouthInRoutt.org, includes highlights of thoughts and actions from Routt County youth in seven categories: mental health, safety, school, physical health, sex and relationships, substance use, and family and community.
Coalition board member Sarah Valentino, youth mental health first aid instructor at Partners for Youth, said the survey findings often echo the issues Routt County adults face that were outlined in the most recent Yampa Valley Community Health Needs Assessment.
“What’s concerning for youth is often matching what’s concerning for adults, which the (community assessment) showed are mental health and substance use,” Valentino said.
With the survey in fall 2021, mental health topic results showed 35% of high school students and 25% of middle schools in Routt County felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row during the previous 12 months that they stopped doing some usual activities. Three in 10 students self-harmed in the past year, which might include pulling their hair or cutting or burning their skin. One in five students surveyed said they seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months.
Although regular use of cigarettes, vaping products and marijuana has dropped among youth, a significant level of underage alcohol use on the high school level continues to concern coalition members, Valentino said. One in three high school students report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, an increase from the previous four years.
“Alcohol has forever been the widely used substance in Routt County among youth,” Valentino said.
Although a lot of the results were anticipated by coalition leaders, Valentino said a new question on the 2021 survey drew the coalition’s attention; the survey showed one in four students said they can fire a loaded gun without adult permission in less than one hour.
Valentino cautioned that the survey results released to the public in June 2022 may not represent the entire county as well as the 2019 survey because the Hayden and South Routt school districts moved to an opt-in system, meaning fewer students took the 2021 survey.
Coalition president Whitney Bakarich, youth resiliency program manager for Northwest Colorado Health, said the survey results are helpful for coalition members when creating, updating or promoting programming. Bakarich said the survey results can support grant writing efforts for the approximately 50 organizations that serve Routt County youth in some capacity such as schools, nonprofits, clubs and public health agencies.
The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which is conducted in the fall of odd years, included input from 106,799 youth at 340 middle and high schools statewide in 2021. The survey included new questions in the areas of belonging, stress, mental health support, sexual consent, access to guns, experiences with racism, and a variety COVID-19 pandemic related experiences.
“It’s important to have this data because it often confirms what our parents, families and organizations suspect to be true. It’s helpful for organizations to know that they are focusing on the right things and to see if their work is having an impact over time,” Valentino said.
The survey results outline multiple contrasts in positive and negative information. For example, electronic bullying remains fairly low, yet school bullying and physical fights are high at middle school, with 23% of middle school students reporting being bullied on school property and 29% saying they’ve been in a physical fight. Soft drink consumption is low at less than one in 10 students drinking soda daily, yet only half of students report eating fruits or vegetables daily or getting regular physical activity.
Valentino said negative physical health survey results point to the need for more education on eating healthy and getting enough sleep and exercise. For example, only 36% of high school students said they sleep eight or more hours per night. Screen time is high and has increased since the 2019 survey, with greater than seven in 10 students spending more than three hours a day in front of a screen outside of school work.
To help youth connect with more community resources, Routt County Youth Services Coalition leaders recommend reviewing the recently released 2022 Family Connections resource guide that is posted online on the coalition website at YouthInRoutt.org.
Bakarich said the surveys help programming “be creative to meet kids where they are at” or to focus recruitment in existing programs.
To help middle and high school students connect with more community resources, coalition leaders recommend reviewing the recently released 2022 Family Connections resource guide that is posted online on the coalition website, YouthInRoutt.org.
“We have so many organizations in this town that support youth in so many different ways that this survey really gives them feedback on how to tailor their programs and how to reach different demographics,” Valentino said.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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