Silver Street Consulting, LLC

Assessment of Adolescent Health in Eagle County, 2012
Eagle River Youth Coalition

The Eagle River Youth Coalition (ERYC) regularly conducts a scientific survey of student behaviors and perceptions in Eagle County, and then shares the results with adolescent service providers to inform program planning. This 2012 needs assessment is a synthesis of the latest survey results, with a focus on alcohol consumption, drinking and driving, marijuana use and physical activity and nutrition. It compares local data with the state and nation, and offers recommended strategies to address the issues.

Alcohol Consumption
The illegal consumption of alcohol by those under age 21 is prevalent among high school students. Locally, by the time students are seniors, 89 percent have tried alcohol, 60 percent have drank it within the past 30 days, and 42 percent have recently consumed five or more drinks in a row, also known as binge drinking. Similar to state and national figures, 22 percent of students reportedly had their first drink before age 13. The allure of alcohol use is strong as local teens explain that the popular students drink and thus, it can be a ticket to automatic acceptance. Also, drinking is the major weekend activity and students who don’t engage in this behavior may feel left out. Students report the most common place that alcohol is consumed is in someone else’s home, where the alcohol is already provided, most likely by a young adult. They say this occurs in every town. According to the literature, one of the most affective ways of reducing alcohol use by adolescents is to limit access through laws, public education and enforcement.

Drinking and Driving
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among adolescents. Inexperience, coupled with a greater likelihood to speed and become distracted, makes them at significantly higher risk of a car crash than adults. With the addition of alcohol, the risk of a serious crash increases dramatically. Locally, 11 percent of high school students reported drinking and driving, and 27 percent reported riding with a driver that had been drinking within the previous 30 days. Students say the main reason for the behavior is that they have no other way to get home. Additionally, teens drink and drive because they think they won’t get

caught; they believe they can tell when they have drank too much to drive; and the activity is illegal, which is attractive to certain teens. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recommends high visibility enforcement of both drinking and driving laws, and graduated drivers license laws as a means to address the issue.

Marijuana Use
Marijuana use has negative effects on memory and attention, and can impact learning for adolescents. Marijuana is also addictive through repeated use. In Eagle County, 39 percent of high school students reported that they have tried marijuana, including 61 percent of seniors. Also, 29 percent of students reported they used it within the past 30 days. In fact, more students now use marijuana than smoke cigarettes. The percentage of Eagle County students that use marijuana is similar to both the state and nation. According to studies, teens that have psychosocial risk factors such as family conflict, a low level of school engagement, and an antisocial peer group are more likely to use marijuana. Local students say that in-school drug testing programs are a deterrent. The national literature recommends community-based interventions that build protective factors in youth.

Physical Activity and Nutrition
Over the past 20 years, the staggering increase in the percentage of overweight and obese children and adults in the U.S. has alarmed health officials. Nationally, 28 percent of students are either overweight or obese, compared to Eagle County students at 14 percent. While, Eagle County doesn’t have the same overweight and obesity problem as the rest of the nation, local youth can still benefit from programs that promote good nutrition and physical activity. Establishing these habits early often transfers to healthy behaviors in adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends strategies that promote nutrition and fitness such as restricting the availability of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks in schools, child care centers and recreation facilities; increasing physical education opportunities; and zoning for mixed-use development in order to increase walking and biking by residents.