Since 2000, the Galveston Children’s Report Card has periodically been published to characterize behavioral risks posed to our children. The report is compiled from results of a survey which was administered to students attending Ball High School, based primarily upon the instrument developed by the Centers for Disease Control for the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. In general, the survey includes such topics as:
- Demographic Characteristics of High School Respondents
- Family Characteristics and Educational Levels Achieved by Parents
- Risks Associated with Students’ Driving Behaviors
- Mental Health
- Personal Safety
- Exposure to Violence and Bullying
- Substance Use
- Sexual Behaviors
- Weight and Body Image
- Daily Activities
Results are reported in several contexts, including comparisons by gender, grade, and ethnicity of the proportion of student respondents currently engaging in behaviors or sustaining exposures that may put them at risk, as well as comparisons with state and national statistics for the same indicators during the same time period. We also report risk trends over the years during which the Galveston survey was repeated (2000, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2017), to assess progress toward facilitating healthy outcomes for our children.
Purpose and Future Actions
The reported indicators in any of these reports obviously do not completely define the condition of our city’s children. The purpose of this report is not to explain or offer reasons for children’s behavior, but rather, to characterize sources of risk that must be assessed and then interpreted by community leaders who can best prioritize the issues and then develop, implement, and evaluate interventions.
The Road Ahead
In 2012, we offered for consideration an approach for organizing a response to the Children’s Report Card through a Stakeholder Advisory Board to foster bidirectional communication with community partners that will meet the needs of our youth, while leveraging resources available through the existing infrastructure for community engagement within the University and in the surrounding Galveston community. With the overall goal of addressing health through preventive and health-promotion programs, we sought to increase the local capacity to effect change, while creating the interface where the experience of local groups could be used to educate Board members and to inform culturally appropriate policy changes at a variety of levels.
The intent was to establish this Advisory Board with the understanding that smaller, targeted Intervention Working Groups would have to be established to ensure that specific community problems would be met with equally specific interventions. This goal was achieved in part in 2014 through the establishment of the Galveston County Research, Education, And Community Health Coalition (REACH), the mission of which is to facilitate research, service and educational efforts through increased communication and collaboration between community leaders and UTMB faculty and staff representing multiple Centers and Institutes. Our rationale for establishing this Coalition was that by eliminating silos and sharing information regularly, all Centers, Institutes, and groups can better address the needs of our communities without gaps and/or overlaps, thus better leveraging all of our time, funding, and efforts.
To date, 23 UTMB Centers and Institutes and 39 community organizations are members, including public and mental health agencies, clinicians, policymakers, cultural and faith-based organizations, and local schools and colleges. Importantly, one member represents 34 non-profits, including two United Way chapters, representing dozens of additional health and social services agencies. The Coalition has active work groups focused on policy, children’s health, CBPR, and mental health, and many REACH members sit on the Citywide Adverse Child Events Task Force that has since been formed. The problems faced by Galveston youth are not insurmountable, but they will commitment of time, resources, and energy to most effectively address them. It’s undoubtedly an investment in our future that we cannot fail to make.