Published in the Sept. 7 issue of The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report was a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) release of some new data that shows the connection between student health, academic performance and risk factors.

This data, based on the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) shows that regardless of sex, race/ethnicity and grade-level, high school students who report lower academic grades also report greater health risk behaviors related to substance use, violence and sex.

The YRBS also shows that students with higher grades are less likely than their peers with lower grades to participate in certain risk behaviors. Compared to students with lower grades (mostly D's/F's), students with higher grades (mostly A's) are less likely to be currently sexually active, less likely to drink alcohol before age 13, and less likely use marijuana.

The results do not prove a causal link (i.e. sexual activity causes lower grades), but they do confirm that across of the 30 health risk behaviors examined, students who reported engaging in unhealthy behaviors do struggle academically. These are problems by association, not cause.

The CDC identified schools as a key to improving health. Students spend a lot of their waking hours at school. That can be the setting for positive activities and connections with adult mentors. It also noted that students with parents involved in their school fared better academically and had fewer risk factors.

The CDC has a number of resources that are valuable to parents, and grandparents, trying to understand what is happening with children today. Go to the CDC website and connect to any of the following: Adolescent and School Health Factsheets; MMWR: Health-related behaviors and academic achievement among high school students, United States, 2015; 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Summary; Program Tools for Education Agencies and Schools; Parent Engagement Information and Resources; and School Connectedness and Other Protective Factors Resources.

Start with the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. While it will have some information you probably aren't interested in (21.5 percent of the children do not drink milk), others will be of serious interest (21.7 percent of students had been offered, sold or given an illegal drug by someone on school property).

When you look into these reports please do not make the mistake of thinking this is just interesting information about nameless, faceless children. These reports gather data from throughout the United States. They compare urban, suburban and rural youth to get this information.

The broad spectrum of students from which the data is gathered is why some result shown a high to low number. For instance, the prevalence of having had sexual intercourse before age 13 years ranged from 2.6 percent to 8.3 percent with a median of 3.5 percent. Personally, I am not happy with 2.6 percent of children having sex before age 13 and 8.3 percent terrifies me.

Let's bring those numbers a little closer to home. If your child is in an eighth grade class that has 200 students, then five to 16 of their classmates have had sex. That leads to the next frightening statistic. Of the 30.1 percent of currently sexually active students nationwide, 13.8 percent report they and their partner do not use any method to prevent pregnancy.

Facts aren't always happy news, but they are facts. Know the facts about what is going on with youth in the United States by checking out the above referenced CDC websites.

Mrs. Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be contacted at BeverlyVT@aol.com.