Durham youths make strides in diet, exercise

Nov. 11, 2013 @ 03:16 PM

As local leaders look to Durham residents to take the bull by the horns on their health, survey data sheds positive light on the health habits of Durham County youth. 

The Durham County Department of Public Health has released results from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showing improvements in diet and physical activity among local youths.

Data from the 2011 survey is available on the Partnership for a Healthy Durham’s website, healthydurham.org.

This biannual study, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administered by Durham Public Schools, collects anonymous data from a random sample of middle and high school students in Durham County.

Highlights of survey results include:

·        Nutrition

o       The diet of high school students is improving. Surveys suggest that, following community focus on nutrition and changes in vending machine policies and school lunches, students drink less soda and other sweetened beverages and eat more fruit and vegetables.

·        Physical activity

o       Students are more likely to ride a bike or walk to school and play on sports teams more than the North Carolina average. Also, the proportion of middle school students playing on sports teams has increased since 2007. The findings suggest a small increase in total physical activity for high school students since 2009.

·        Violence and drug use

o       Middle school survey data shows a consistent decrease in violence and drug use in middle school since 2007, suggesting that community and DPS support services oriented toward prevention among younger children may be successful. However, drug use in high school was higher in 2011 than in 2009, suggesting a renewed community focus on older teens.

·        Mental health

o       Data suggest that there are still important differences in the level of sadness and thoughts of suicide among students. Sadness and thoughts of suicide were most frequently reported among Latino students, suggesting that support services tailored for these students may be important.

Community efforts to support these changes in youth behavior include changes in the DPS School Wellness Policy, healthier food choices in schools, and programs offered by other community organizations throughout Durham.

For information about the survey or other Partnership for a Healthy Durham’s initiatives, contact Erika Samoff at 919-560-7833 or e-mail esamoff@dconc.gov.