An Alternative Technique for Youth Risk Surveillance Outside of the School System

Merrian J. Brooks, Todd Bear, Karen Hacker, Edmund M. Ricci, Abigail Foulds, Heather Anderson, Claire Raible, Elizabeth Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose When school districts choose not to participate in adolescent health behavior surveys, tracking adolescent health indicators can be challenging. We conducted a countywide youth behavior survey outside of the school system. Our purpose is to describe alternative methods used for gathering these data reliably and ethically. Methods We implemented two parallel surveys with youth ages 14–19 residing in a mid-sized county with urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods. An anonymous phone-based survey used computer-assisted telephone interviewing with a live interviewer in conjunction with an interactive voice response system to survey youth via random digit dialing of landlines and cell phones. A concurrent in-person anonymous survey was conducted with marginalized youth (from juvenile detention centers, shelters, and residential facilities), using audio computer-assisted self-interviewing technology. The survey measures included the Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System and additional questions about social supports, neighborhood, and adverse childhood experiences. Results Data were collected between February and December 2014. The phone-based sample recruited 1813 participants; the marginalized sample included 262 youth. Several strategies ensured anonymity and reduced coercion. The final phone-based sample was similar to demographics of the county population. The marginalized youth sample captured out-of-home youth who may have been missed with phone-based sampling alone. Conclusions We review alternative strategies for obtaining population-based adolescent health data without the cooperation of schools. These techniques can provide a basis to collect data that may help direct resources and policies relevant to needs of local youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-78
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent health
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Behavioral surveillance
  • Data collection
  • Health policy
  • Health surveys
  • Primary prevention
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'An Alternative Technique for Youth Risk Surveillance Outside of the School System'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this