Welcoming and Safe Schools

New CDC Reports

By Sheila Desai

Volume 46 Issue 4, p. 16

By Sheila Desai

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published its analysis of two surveys it conducted in 2015 and 2016. The first survey was administered to students in grades 9–12 and assessed their health-related behaviors. The second was conducted with school districts to evaluate school health policies. Selected findings from each survey are summarized below.

Youth Risk Behavioral Study

The Youth Risk Behavioral Study evaluated relationships between academic achievement and health-related behaviors that most commonly contribute to morbidity and mortality among adolescents in the United States. A nationally representative sample of 15,624 students from public and private schools was included in the 2015 data set. The survey measured dietary, physically active and sedentary, substance abuse, sexual risk, violence-related, and suicide-related behaviors.

When demographic variables (e.g., sex, race/ethnicity, grade) were controlled, students who reported earning grades of mostly As, Bs, or Cs had significantly lower prevalence estimates for most health-related risk behaviors (substance abuse, sexual risk, violence-related, and suicide-related) in comparison to students with mostly Ds or Fs. In addition, healthy eating and physical activity were associated with higher self-reported grades. Though family and neighborhood factors were not measured in the survey, the data support a correlational link between health-related behaviors and self-reported education outcomes. To promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles, the CDC recommends that schools provide students with the opportunity to practice healthy behaviors and increase student knowledge and skills through school nutrition programs and services.

School Health Policies and Practices Study

The School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS) assesses practices in health education, physical education and activity, nutrition environment and services, health services, counseling, psychological and social services, social and emotional climate, physical environment, and employee wellness. The 2016 survey included a nationally representative sample of 740 public school districts. Highlighted findings include: 33.7% of districts required each school to have a full-time nurse; 22.5% of districts had at least one school-based health center that offered both primary care and counseling, psychological, or social services to students; and 12.3% of districts had a policy to screen students for mental health problems.

The SHPPS results also provided information about district trends over time, including increased use of required security or surveillance cameras on school property. In 2000, 11.0% of surveyed district elementary schools had such a policy; in 2016 the prevalence rose to 75.9%. This trend is consistent in middle and high schools with increases of 16.4% to 82.9% and 19.2% to 85.4%, respectively. From 2012 (82.0%) to 2016 (93.2%), more districts reported that they have policies to prohibit electronic aggression or cyberbullying that interferes with the educational environment, even if such behavior occurred outside of school property or school-sponsored events. Since 2006, fewer surveyed districts in 2016 reported funding or offering professional development on school-wide policies and programs related to the prevention of alcohol (decrease of 14.4%), illegal drug (decrease of 12.9%), and tobacco (decrease of 13.3%) use during the 2 years before the study.

Fewer districts reported the requirement of HIV prevention (47.4% down to 31.7%) and STD prevention (45.0% to 32.2%) programs from 2000 to 2016, while more schools required violence prevention programs in the same time period (59.2% to 77.4%). More districts required school counseling, psychological, or social services staff to participate in the development of individualized health plans when indicated (up from 38.5% in 2000 to 69.3% in 2016). Finally, more districts reported having someone that oversees or coordinates counseling, psychological, or social services (62.6% in 2000 and 79.5% in 2016).

NASP resources on prevention and wellness promotion are available on its website (


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). School health policies and practices study 2016 overview [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). School health policies and practices study trends over time: 2000–2016 [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from

Sheila P. Desai, PhD, NCSP, is NASP Director, Educational Practice, and a contributing editor for Communiqué

© 2017, National Association of School Psychologists
December 2017, Volume 46, Number 4