Priority health-risk behaviors, which are behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among youth and adults in Pacific Island territories, often are established during adolescence and extend into adulthood.
The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors six categories of priority health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults, including behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus infection; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity. In addition, the YRBSS monitors the prevalence of obesity and asthma. YRBSS includes a national school-based survey conducted by CDC and state, territorial, tribal, and local school-based surveys conducted by state, territorial, tribal, and local education and health agencies. This report summarizes results from surveys of students in grades 9--12 conducted in five territories (American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau) during January--June 2007.
Across the five Pacific Island territories, the leading causes of mortality among all ages include unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes; cancer; cardiovascular diseases; stroke; and diabetes. Results from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicated that high school students in the Pacific Island territories engaged in behaviors that increased their risk for mortality or morbidity from these causes. Across the five territories during 2007, the percentage of high school students who had rarely or never worn a seat belt when riding in a car driven by someone else ranged from 11.8% to 83.2% (median: 30.9%). During the 30 days before the survey, the percentage who had ridden in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol ranged from 34.8% to 49.8% (median: 42.8%), the percentage who had driven a car or other vehicle when they had been drinking alcohol ranged from 7.8% to 16.1% (median: 11.9%), and the percentage who had carried a weapon ranged from 16.9% to 32.0% (median: 19.6%). The percentage of students who had smoked cigarettes during the 30 days before the survey ranged from 23.1% to 37.6% (median: 31.1%), the percentage who had not eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day during the 7 days before the survey ranged from 72.8% to 83.6% (median: 79.5%), and the percentage who had not met recommended levels of physical activity ranged from 64.0% to 77.2% (median: 68.9%).
The prevalence of many health-risk behaviors varies across the five Pacific Island territories, and many high school students engage in behaviors that place them at risk for the leading causes of mortality and morbidity.
YRBSS data will be used in the territories for decision making and program planning, resulting in more effective school health and youth health programs. More evidence-based interventions and programs are needed to reduce risk behaviors and improve health outcomes among youth.