For the next year, Allegheny County will be surveying 14- to 19-year-olds in an effort to improve services offered for youth. The phone survey is based on the national “Youth Risk Behavior” survey.
“Which focuses on a whole variety of areas that include everything from drug abuse to physical activity and nutrition to sexual activity to mental health issues,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker. “Many of the questions on the survey were drawn from the national survey.”
The national, biannual questionnaire was created in the early 1990s by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey will be conducted by telephone (both landline and cell numbers), and the health department hopes to reach about 1,600 randomly selected youth.
The information gathered will be confidential. Hacker said while teens may be apprehensive about divulging information to authority figures, similar surveys have proven accurate.
“There’s lots of information that suggests that young people do tend to answer fairly truthfully when given those kinds of surveys,” she said. “Now most of these survey will have checks and balances so if you answer one questions outrageously it’s obvious.”
The data gathered will be used by the county health department and other health organizations to improve services based on needs identified in the survey, and will allow health officials to compare the county with other counties in Pennsylvania and beyond. No names will be connected to the survey and all questions regarding bullying, sex, drug/alcohol use and violence will be asked using an automated system.
“I think it’s going to be very exciting for us to have this information and to be able to plan accordingly and to really feel like we’re doing that based on valid information rather than what we have now which is much more word of mouth, hearsay, things like that,” Hacker said.
The survey is underway and will continue over 12 months. Participants are asked for their name and address in a different system following the survey, so they can receive a $20 gift card in the mail for taking part. No participant will be asked for financial information or their social security number. If a call is received, its legitimacy can be verified by calling 412-687-ACHD or visiting www.achd.net.