Saying ‘no’: stats on teen sex clarified

A misinterpreted answer to one of the questions on a teen behavior survey led to vastly skewed results being reported last month about sexual behavior among Hood River County 8th-graders.

Maija Yasui, Hood River County Prevention Coordinator, was concerned enough about the survey results, which indicated that 87 percent of 8th-graders were sexually active, that she twice tried to verify the data with the Oregon Health Division, which administers the anonymous surveys, before releasing it. Both times, a statistician with the division confirmed the figure, so Yasui reported the results at a community forum at Hood River Valley High School on Oct. 8.

The question, which was part of the Healthy Teen Survey given each spring to students in 8th and 11th grades, asked students if they had “ever had sexual intercourse.”

Every other question on the survey was worded in a yes/no format, with the answers calculated by the health division into percentages based on “yes” answers. For example, 57 percent of 8th graders reported that they had eaten breakfast five or more out of the past seven days.

The question about sexual behavior, however, was computed using the “no” answers; when students were asked if they had ever had sexual intercourse, the “no” responses were the ones used in calculating percentages.

Instead of 87 percent of 8th-graders reporting they were sexually active, that figure represents the number of students reporting they were not sexually active.

“The numbers were inverted,” Yasui said. She contacted the health division a third time after the Oct. 8 forum.

“I said, ‘This really bothers me,’” said Yasui, who requested the entire survey and computed results be sent to her rather than only the “summary report,” which is how the division normally distributes survey results. That’s when the discrepancy was discovered.

“We’re very pleased that the information is different,” Yasui said. “We thought the information was inaccurate. We want people to know that, when the survey was done, the question was clear to the kids. It’s how we interpreted the data” that led to the initial inaccuracy in reported results.

The revised survey results of 8th-graders reporting they were sexually active are: 12.5 percent of 8th-graders at Wy’east Middle School and 15.7 percent of 8th-graders at Hood River Middle School reported they’ve had sexual intercourse.

Yasui said those numbers are “in line” with the last couple of years. “It’s an increase, but not a significant increase,” she said.

“We’re affirming that 87 percent of kids by 8th grade have not had sexual intercourse,” said Rick Eggers, assistant superintendent of the Hood River County School District. “The negative side is, we’re still talking about children. We’re talking about 13 percent of children — and I’m using that term on purpose — have had sex by the time they’re in 8th grade. That still should be alarming.”

All other reported results of the teen behavior survey were correct, according to Yasui, who combed through all the results to make sure there were no other discrepancies. Areas of concern, according to Yasui, include reported use of illicit drugs (methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin) by 8th-graders at Hood River Middle School (10 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls), and at Hood River Valley High School (22 percent of boys and 18 percent of girls).

“We’ve looked at (those numbers) every which way and they still hold true,” Yasui said.

Yasui said she hopes people don’t lose faith in the surveys.

“The study’s valid,” she said, adding that because the surveys are conducted anonymously by strangers, they have a margin of error of only 3 percent. The health division surveys also help bring money into the community for prevention efforts, she said.

Joella Dethman, director of the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families, commended the school district for releasing the results of the teen surveys.

“This information comes to the district and they don’t have to give it out,” Dethman said. “It doesn’t always make everything look great, but they feel it’s important to share it with the community.” Along with helping attract funds for prevention efforts, data from the surveys is used by the district to help choose appropriate health curriculum.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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