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KCHD releases Middle School Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Report outlines health risk behaviors among middle school-age children

KNOXVILLE — The Knox County Health Department (KCHD) has released the latest Knox County Middle School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (MS-YRBS). The survey is designed to track behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among middle school-age youth. Following the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention model, the survey focuses on issues such as self-harm and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, and weight control and diet. Typically conducted in some states and U.S. territories, Knox County is among a small number of counties and municipalities who conduct their own MS-YRBS.

“To effectively respond to the health needs of our community, we must have a deep understanding of the local challenges we face,” said KCHD Senior Director Dr. Martha Buchanan. “This report helps us and our partners discover important patterns and health trends, and it serves as a call to action for the community to engage in improving the health of all our children.”

Several of the findings included in the analysis reflect improving outcomes, such as a decline in more traditional forms of tobacco use, including cigarettes and cigars, and an increase in seatbelt use. However, several of the findings are concerning, especially regarding thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts, electronic vapor product use, misuse of prescription pain medication, and the percentage of students who consider themselves overweight.

“This important information gives us insight into some of the social challenges that face our students,” Superintendent Bob Thomas said. “We are in a unique position to positively affect student well-being and this data helps us to better address these issues.”

The Knox County report is the result of a joint effort by KCHD and Knox County Schools with support from Metro Drug Coalition. The next Knox County YRBS will be based on input from high school students; these two age groups are assessed in alternate years. The YRBS reports are designed to assist local agencies in planning and policy formation to improve overall health in the county, especially the health of adolescents. Click here to access a PDF of the 2018 MS-YRBS.

The first health department in Tennessee to achieve national voluntary accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Knox County Health Department is dedicated to ensuring the conditions in which every resident can be healthy. As a chief health strategist for the community and with approximately 260 employees, KCHD’s broad scope of work includes convening partners to improve community health, identifying community health threats, investigating disease outbreaks, conducting extensive outreach and education, preparing for public health emergencies, providing and connecting the public with medical care, enforcing food safety and air quality laws, and more. For more information, visit

Published October 25, 2019

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