MEDFIELD — Superintendent Jeffrey Marsden and Wellness Department Chair Susan Cowell would like to share with the community the results of Medfield’s 2018 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey.
The MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey is a grant-funded initiative by the MetroWest Health Foundation and is administered to students in grades six through 12 at 58 schools every two years. The survey consists of questions about students’ behavior, feelings and attitudes regarding unhealthy and potentially risky behaviors.
Survey questions focus on substance use, violence and bullying, unintentional injuries such as impaired and distracted driving, mental health, perception of safety and adult support, dietary behaviors and physical activity and social media use. High school students also answer questions about sexual behaviors. The questions ask students about their behaviors regarding these topics in the past month (current), past year or at any point in their lifetime. There are 114 questions for middle school students and 153 questions for high school students.
A total of 1,313 Medfield students in grades six through 12 participated in the survey. A summary of the key points shown by the data was presented to the school committee on Thursday, Jan. 9.
Some encouraging trends from the district’s results include:
- Use of cigarettes remains low (0.5% of middle school students and 2.6% of high school students smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days)
- Among high school students, lower than ever use of prescription drugs or stimulants without a doctor’s prescription (both under 5% for the first time), and lower than ever use of methamphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin (all under 2%)
- Decrease in cyberbullying victimization (from 20.3% in 2016 to 14.8% in 2018 at the middle school, from 21.5% in 2016 to 18.5% in 2018 at the high school)
- Depressive symptoms, self-injury, and suicidality are all lower among Medfield students than the MetroWest region, the state and the nation
- Adult support continues to be strong for students both in school and at home
Some concerning trends among Medfield students include:
- Dramatic rise in vaping between 2016 and 2018
- Increase in marijuana use
- Higher alcohol use than the region, state and nation, along with an increase in binge drinking and access to alcohol
- Answers of “life very stressful” continue to increase
- Increase in distracted driving (61% of seniors drove while texting in the 30 days prior to the survey)
The results from each survey are used to help the district identify school and community needs and make decisions regarding health and wellness education and programs for students, staff and parents.
“The MetroWest survey is an important tool for our district to learn about the challenges our students may be facing and helps us determine which areas of wellness we may consider focusing on in the coming years,” Superintendent Marsden said. “Although the data show areas where we can improve, we are pleased with the many areas in which we continue to see healthier behavior reported by students.”
To help determine the main takeaways from the survey results, all wellness teachers for grades six through 12, all guidance counselors and all PreK-12 district administrators weighed in on the data. The staff conversations generated a list of key topics, which were narrowed down to the two recommended areas of focus for the coming years: substance use and mental health.
As shown by the data, vaping, marijuana use and alcohol consumption continue to be a concern. In addition, the number of students reporting that life is very stressful is a concern. Having a supportive parent or adult, eating dinner as a family, spending fewer hours on social media and getting more sleep each night are all behaviors that were associated with less student stress.
The results from past years’ surveys have resulted in many new programs and wellness initiatives for Medfield students, parents and staff, including the start or expansion of numerous programs in response to the trends shown in the survey over time.
Blake Middle School has implemented ongoing education and outreach programs to educate and improve understanding of LGBTQ students’ needs, as well as instituted cultural learning opportunities around inclusion and acceptance. Blake has also conducted training for parents to learn about the vaping epidemic.
Wellness education at the high school is now required for students in grades nine through 12, which helps to address the critical health needs and experiences of older students. This includes a comprehensive sexual education curriculum which has led to a similar rate of sexual behavior among Medfield High School students since 2006 and remains lower than the MetroWest region, the state and the nation. This curriculum is in line with legislation passed by the State Senate on Thursday, Jan. 16. The school has also eliminated mid-year exams to help reduce student stress throughout the year.
District-wide, Medfield has created a specialized social-emotional learning task force to look at student and staff wellness. The district has expanded its new RISE classroom program to help support students who come back to school from a medical leave of absence. Data from previous years were used by Medfield Cares About Prevention to secure a federal Drug Free Communities grant to hire a substance use prevention specialist who will help address youth substance use throughout the community. This position is expected to be filled in the coming months. Finally, the survey results have supported use of the Interface Mental Health helpline, which allows anyone in Medfield to call for a connection to a medical provider or resources in the area, and is a more efficient way for families in need to find help.
The data trends have also influenced the pursuit of programs for Medfield’s elementary students to help encourage positive behaviors at younger ages. These programs include several social-emotional learning programs and “Lunch Bunches,” which put small groups of kids together with an adult facilitator to provide social opportunities. Dale Street School has implemented Sanford Harmony Social Emotional Learning Curriculum for fourth grade and fifth grade students, which is designed to foster communication, connection and community among students.
“We’re proud of the many beneficial programs we have implemented throughout the district in response to this survey data,” Cowell said. “We are grateful for the partnership our schools have with the families in our community, and we hope that these survey results will help parents learn more about the risk behaviors associated with growing up today and understand how influential they can be in reducing these risk behaviors.”
Parents are encouraged to follow and Retweet messages from the district’s Twitter campaign to help spread the word about the survey data and to come together to help build a healthier community. Follow @MedfieldWell, @guidance02052, @MedfieldHS, @nat_vaughn and @JeffreyJMarsden for updates.
To view a copy of the results that were presented in the Jan. 9 school committee presentation, click here.
For more information about the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, visit mwhealth.org.