The Sunshine State goes dark on adolescent health. It’s a dangerous misstep in Florida

Laura D. Lindberg, Rutgers School of Public Health and Morgan Philbin, Columbia University
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Full op-ed published in Miami Herald.

The Sunshine State is forcing adolescent health into the shadows — and the consequences could be far-reaching.

The Florida Department of Education recently — and quietly — ended its decades-long participation in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a nationwide survey of high school students sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Abruptly ending Florida’s survey participation after 30 years means that critically important data needed to support adolescents’ health in Florida and nationwide will no longer be available.

The need for such data is currently more vital than ever — and the timing of this withdrawal raises serious additional concerns. Adolescents across Florida are still dealing with COVID-related hardships that directly affect their mental and physical well-being. In addition, Florida is proposing and passing bills like the so-called ‘Don’t say gay’ bill, as well as legislation to weaken firearms safety laws.

Decades of research tell us that these bills can directly harm adolescent health, though the proponents of these bills claim — erroneously and without scientifically-based evidence — that they are necessary for adolescents’ well-being. And yet, rather than politicians proving their point by letting the YRBS continue to track relevant data, they are shutting it down: Better to not have your narrative challenged by evidence.

Read the full op-ed here.

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