Coalition Uses A Data-Driven Approach To Find Behavioral Health Solutions

Anchorage high school students who feel like their teachers really care about them are 50 percent less likely to drink. Young women in Alaska attempt suicide at twice the rate of young men. Those are just a few statistics being used to develop behavioral health solutions for Anchorage’s youth.

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The data is captured by tools like the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Image courtesy of Anchorage Youth Development Coalition.
Image courtesy of Anchorage Youth Development Coalition.

Now, a coalition of youth-focused organizations in Anchorage is using that data to create behavioral health solutions. First, they are presenting some of the 67 pages of data to the community and getting their feedback on what they value the most.

“We really want to make sure that our efforts are focused on issues that the community cares about and that it will make a difference,” says Deborah Williams with the Anchorage Youth Development Coalition.

During a series of presentations, community members and youth have highlighted items like raising awareness of mental health issues for younger kids and helping young people deal with feelings like loneliness.

Spirit of Youth executive director Karen Zeman says they want to find out the reasons for the numbers — why do young women tend to feel more sadness, hopelessness and stress than young men? Why is online bullying more likely to lead kids to drink than in-school bullying?

“There have been a lot of wonderful programs in Anchorage for youth, but they haven’t necessarily been evidenced-based,” she says. “So what we’re trying to do is take a step back, figure out what the top priorities are, and then figure out what really will work to move the needle.”

The data already confirm that some things have positive impacts, like young people who feel like they matter to others in their community are nearly 60 percent less likely to consider suicide.

The coalition also includes Healthy Voices, Healthy Choices and is running the project development with funds from the state’s Division of Behavioral Health. They hope to have new programs focused on youth behavioral health by 2016.

You can view a summary of all the data here.

Anne Hillman is the healthy communities editor at Alaska Public Media and a host of Hometown, Alaska. Reach her at Read more about Anne here.

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