CDC addresses six critical types of adolescent health behavior that
research shows contribute to the leading causes of death and disability
among adults and youth. Other important issues that affect children and
adolescents are also addressed.
Six Critical Health Behaviors
Alcohol & Drug Use
Alcohol abuse is the third leading preventable cause of death in the
United States (4% of the total deaths in 2000), and is a factor in
approximately 41% of all deaths from motor vehicle crashes.
& Violence (including suicide)
Injury and violence is the leading cause of death among youth aged 10-24
motor vehicle crashes (37% of all deaths), all other unintentional
injuries (16%), homicide (18%), and suicide (13%).
- Tobacco Use
Each day in the United States, approximately 4,000 adolescents aged 12-17
try their first cigarette. Each year cigarette smoking accounts for
approximately 1 of every 5 deaths, or about 438,000 people. Cigarette
smoking results in 5.5 million years of potential life lost in the
United States annually.
Almost 80% of young people do not eat the recommended servings of fruits
and vegetables. Nearly 9 million youth in the United States aged 6–19
- Physical Activity
Participation in physical activity declines as children get older.
Overall, in 2005, 36% of 9-12 graders had participated in at least 60
minutes per day of physical activity. Nearly 37% of 9th graders, but
only 33% of 12th graders, participated in 60 minutes of physical
activity on a regular basis.
- Sexual Risk Behaviors
Each year, there are approximately 19 million new STD infections in the
United States, and almost half of them are among youth aged 15 to
24. Thirty-four percent of young women become pregnant at least once before
they reach the age of 20.
These behaviors usually are established during childhood, persist into
adulthood, are inter-related, and are preventable. In addition to causing
serious health problems, these behaviors also contribute to the educational
and social problems that confront the nation, including failure to complete
high school, unemployment, and crime.
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Other Important Health Topics
On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about three are likely to have
asthma. Five million school-aged children and youth are reported to
currently have asthma, and asthma is one of the leading causes of school
Crisis Preparedness & Response
Preparation is the responsibility of every school, community, and state.
Should an event or threat occur or be suspected, every staff member should
know how to respond based on protocols or community-based plans established
in advance in collaboration with public health and first responder agencies.
Food allergies are an abnormal immune response to certain foods that the body reacts to as harmful. Each year food allergies cause 30,000 cases of anaphylaxis, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 150 deaths. The best method for managing food allergies is prevention by avoiding any foods that trigger a reaction.
Educating students, families, and school staff on simple but effective food
safety measures can help prevent the approximately 76 million cases of
foodborne illness that are reported in the United States annually, resulting
in an average of 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Food safety is
especially important in schools, because each day more than 27 million
children get their lunch through the National School Lunch Program.
Furthermore, educating students in school about food safety can help them
build good food safety habits that last a lifetime.
Mental health is an under-recognized serious health problem. An estimated
21% of young people in the United States between the ages 9 and 17 have diagnosable emotional or behavioral health disorders,
but less than a third get help for these problems.
The prevalence of obesity among children ages 6 to 11 has more than doubled
in the past 20 years, going from 6.5% in 1980 to 17.0% in 2006. Several
chronic disease risk factors are related to childhood overweight and
obesity, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Additionally,
obese young people have a great likelihood of becoming obese
adults and developing diseases associated with adulthood, such as type 2
diabetes and heart disease.
The most common form of cancer in the United States is skin cancer.
Skin cancer is a preventable disease, as exposure to the sun's ultraviolet
rays appears to be the most important environmental factor. Schools are in a
good position to encourage children to develop sun protection habits.
Adolescent Health. During
the transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescents establish
patterns of behavior and make lifestyle choices that affect both
their current and future health.
Addressing Health Disparities. In the United States different racial and
ethnic populations, as well as sexual minority populations, suffer
disproportionately from preventable diseases and conditions, many of
which result from health-related behaviors that are established
during childhood and adolescence.
Registries of Effective
Programs lists federally-sponsored registries that include
programs with evidence of effectiveness in reducing youth risk behaviors.
Sleep and Sleep Disorders
This site provides information regarding sleep disorders, the
relationship between sleep and chronic disease, injury, and other
health outcomes; sleep time recommendations; links to national sleep
organizations; and additional resources.
Steps to a HealthierUS is an
initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that
advances the goal of helping Americans live longer, better, and healthier
lives. The Steps Cooperative Agreement Program funds
communities nationwide to implement school and other community-based
programs that address obesity, diabetes, and asthma, as well as their
related risk behaviors: physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and tobacco
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