A key aspect of promoting adolescent health at the community level is gathering the necessary data to determine priorities, raise awareness, and support local programs and policies. Since 2006, EDC has supported data-driven improvements in adolescent health and risk behavior through its administration of the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, funded by the MetroWest Health Foundation.
Administered biennially to more than 40,000 middle and high school youth in 25 communities west of Boston, the survey collects self-reported data on behaviors, including substance use, bullying, mental health, violence, sexual behavior, and physical activity. It also captures data on emerging and evolving behaviors in the adolescent population, such as social media use, prescription drug misuse (including opioids), and vaping, and identifies health disparities experienced by groups such as LGBTQ youth and youth with disabilities.
As part of this project, EDC’s role includes the following activities:
- Administer the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey. Past surveys were collected biennially from 2006 through 2018, and planning is underway for the 2020 survey.
- Analyze results and share local findings with school and community partners, who use the results to inform programs and policies.
- Provide customized technical assistance to communities to maximize their use of local data to inform education, prevention, and intervention efforts.
- Conduct analyses of regional data to inform the field of adolescent health through conference presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journals.
- Since 2006, middle and high school adolescents in 25 communities have completed more than 250,000 surveys about their health and risk behaviors.
- Communities have used the data extensively to determine adolescent health priorities, bolster health education and prevention programming, advance local policies, and engage community members in collective action.
- Survey data have informed regional initiatives to address youth substance use, bullying, and mental health, as well as policy changes in several U.S. states related to tobacco use.