January 2024 marks the 10th administration of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) in Eagle County since 2007. While readers of the Vail Daily might remember the survey from past years, what they might not know is the impact it has on members of our community.
On a community level, many of our local nonprofits and government agencies have used data from the survey to understand our youth’s behavioral needs and strengths, and to apply for grants that support their work. In fact, Mountain Youth and other local agencies have collectively received over $28,000,000 towards programs supporting youth and families since 2007.
On a more individual level, this data has enabled Mountain Youth to sponsor close to 850 individuals at our Family and Community Education series, engage 1,320 students and other community members with Safe Driving Education, and provide Life Skills education to over 1,500 Eagle County students in 2023.
In addition to helping organizations apply for grants and support programs, the data also influences policies and strategies to increase protective factors for our youth. For example, at Eagle County School District, wellness policies impacting students and staff, and the addition of wellness goals to the Board of Education Ends Policy were identified utilizing HKCS data.
Community-wide, laws and norms around substance use have also been revisited in light of the HKCS data. Eagle County has also implemented changes thanks to the data. As Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney explains, “The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey administered by Mountain Youth has provided excellent data points as our Eagle County Public Health team develops the Public Health Community Plan. This plan will help guide our actions across our community for the next 5 years, so it’s important to have reliable data to refer to. The plan was just approved by the Board of Health in early December so it’s hot off the press.”
Something else readers might not be aware of is how this data is collected. Each participating middle and high school selects an administration time that has the least impact on student learning and students take the online survey, which is completely anonymous, confidential and voluntary. Youth who participate may choose to skip questions they don’t understand or don’t want to answer. Students and families that chose to opt out are provided details from the district and their schools on how to do so and will participate in a different activity while the survey is administered. Once the surveys are complete, the raw data is compiled by the University of Colorado for a detailed report that we anticipate will be available for the community by early summer 2024.
We recognize that times are tougher than ever for youth, not only in Colorado, but around the nation. Young people are experiencing alarming rates of anxiety, depression and loneliness, and families are struggling to connect in authentic and meaningful ways. Which is why this survey is more important than ever, as it will give us insight into what Eagle County Schools and community partners can do to support local youth.
Health Kids Colorado Survey gives insight to help our community better understand how our youth are feeling and the struggles they’re going through. It addresses topics of students’ regular daily routines such as; physical activity, nutrition, and engagement in local sports and activities, and sensitive topics, including identity, drug use, and sexual activity. As a community, we don’t want this survey to be the first time youth are hearing those terms or thinking about their experiences. In fact, we hope that parents and guardians are having those important conversations at home prior to the survey administration. If you’re struggling to have those conversations with the youth in your life, here are a few tips you can check out.
In addition to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, this winter will mark the first time 18-25 year olds will be able to make their voices heard through a similar survey specific to their age demographic. This is a vulnerable population with limited support, and Mountain Youth and community partners are eager to engage their voice to better understand what resources and opportunities would be best to develop in our community.
Finally, parents and caregivers of the Eagle River Valley are also invited to participate in a simultaneous survey administered by Mountain Youth which may be accessed via MountainYouth.org beginning in January. This comprehensive assessment has been administered since 2017 and helps Mountain Youth and the community understand parent behaviors and parent perceptions of their children's behaviors. This brief, anonymous survey will take about ten minutes to complete. Upon completion, parents can either elect to support their child’s school or a local nonprofit through our survey incentive fund. Our short-term goal is to provide parent perceptions and neighborhood behaviors in our community with the long-term goal of improving behavioral outcomes.
In short, we hope that this administration of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey is the most accurate one yet, and that the community can benefit in learning about the behaviors and needs facing children, young adults and parents. Please take a moment to visit MountainYouth.org/Survey to learn more, and to encourage honest participation in January, 2024.
-Michelle Hartel Stecher, Executive Director, Mountain Youth