What topics were included in the questionnaire?
The questionnaire included the following topics:
- eating habits
- physical activity
- tobacco, alcohol and other drugs
- dental health
- sun safety
- self-esteem, mental health and relationships
- sexual health awareness
- violence and bullying
- injury prevention
- demographics, including age, sex, grade, postal code and racial background
Did all students receive the same questionnaire?
No. Different questionnaires were given to participating elementary and high school students. Differences relate to students' age. For example, grade 7 and 8 students are too young to drive, so there are no questions about driving after drinking alcohol. Different versions were used in public and Catholic schools. Catholic school versions of the questionnaire account for Catholic values taught in the school curriculum. The questionnaire were given out in English at English-language schools, and in French at French-language schools.
You can download a sample of the Grade 9 - 12 questionnaire below. This version encompasses the entire range of possible questions asked to some students. For details on which modules were omitted from grade 7/8 and/or Catholic schools, please call Toronto Health Connections at 416-338-7600
Why did you ask for postal code?
Household income plays a key role in overall health and well-being. It is important to look at this relationship among adolescents; however, it is difficult to collect family income from children and youth. To overcome this challenge, postal code information will be used to determine the overall socio-economic status of the area where youth live. Postal codes will not be used to identify your child or family in the information that is reported.
Why did you ask about racial background?
One goal of the Student Survey is to provide a clear picture of the health of Toronto students and the risks to their health. Different groups of students may have different levels of risk and different experiences, and may benefit from specific programs to stay healthy. We asked students to indicate their racial background (e.g., Asian, Black, Middle Eastern, White, Aboriginal, or mixed) to help understand these differences and develop the best services for those groups of students.
Does asking questions about certain topics encourage certain behaviours?
There is no evidence that asking students about health risk behaviours encourageS them to try that behaviour. Surveys have been conducted for many years with youth, and many health professionals agree the benefits far outweigh any potential risks. Additionally, students are taught about smoking, alcohol, and drugs as part of the school curriculum.
Why did you measure height and weight?
By measuring both height and weight, Toronto Public Health can calculate a measure known as Body Mass Index (BMI)-for-age. This measure will help us to know the proportion of students who are a "normal" weight, or underweight, overweight or obese and at risk of weight-related health consequences. BMI-for-age is one aspect of a person's overall health status and many health practitioners across Canada agree it is the best choice for assessing body weight status in children, adolescents and adults. BMI-for-age analysis will provide Toronto Public Health with an important population-level indicator of health and well-being for students in this age group.
How were height and weight measured?
One-by-one, students were asked to go with a Public Health Nurse to a private area within the school. Each student was asked to remove their shoes and if necessary, any heavy clothing (eg. coats, etc.). The Public Health Nurse then weighed each child and measured their height.
Did students receive their height and weight results?
The goal of the Student Survey is to provide information about Toronto students as a whole, and not individuals. As a result, Public Health Nurses did not routinely disclose height and weight information. If however, a student asked for their height and/or weight results, the nurse showed the student their measurements.
Why did you measure oral health?
Oral health is a key indicator of overall health status and is associated with certain health risks and outcomes over time. Poor oral health can affect appearance and self-esteem, and has been linked to sleeping problems and behavioural and developmental problems in children. Untreated cavities and gum disease may contribute to serious conditions, such as diabetes and respiratory disease. They can also be painful and lead to serious infections.
How was the oral health check conducted?
A Dental Hygienist checked students' mouths using sterilized instruments. If any concerns arise, parents (of students under the age of 18) were be notified by Toronto Public Health. Toronto Public Health provides free, non-emergency and emergency dental care for eligible children and youth up to 17 years of age.
How were participating classrooms selected?
Classrooms were chosen randomly using a statistical method to ensure that the results represent all Toronto public school students in grades 7 to 12.
How long did students take to complete the survey?
Most students needed about 60 to 75 minutes to finish the written questionnaire and the height, weight, and oral health measurements.
Was consent required to take part?
Yes. Parents of students under the age of 18 were required to return a signed consent form to their child's teacher. Parents had to indicate whether their child did or did NOT have permission to take part in the Student Survey. A student younger than 18 years old was unable to take part if the consent form was not returned to the school. Students 18 years and older could provide their own consent. Students who returned a signed consent form, regardless of the decision to participate, were entered into a draw to win one of ten iPads.
How will the results be used?
Information gathered through the Student Survey will be used by Toronto Public Health and other community groups to guide services and policies to maintain and improve the health and well-being of Toronto's youth. Information gathered will also help to identify priority issues and help teachers, administrators, and health professionals develop programs to meet the current needs of Toronto youth. Individual students will not be identified in the results.
How is this useful to students and parents?
The results of the survey will help Toronto Public Health do the best job it can to create opportunities that maintain and improve the health and well-being Toronto students. Youth who participate in the survey will have an opportunity to gain a better understanding of their own health. Parents can create opportunities to talk to their children about their health, and engage in discussion about the benefits of positive health behaviours.
Can I see a student's results?
No. Students were asked not to put their name on the survey and were encouraged not to write any personal information on the survey at all. All results were combined to protect the identity of each individual child and school. Toronto Public Health will report broad, general health trends across age, sex, racial background, and other important groupings that may play a role in health. This information will help guide future health programs for youth across the Toronto.
Who can I contact if I have more questions?
For more information, contact Toronto Public Health's Student Survey team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-392-7450.