Risky Business

At-risk behavior dropping among black teens

Fewer black U.S. high school students are engaging in certain risky behaviors compared with students of other races, according to the 2005 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 14,000 U.S. high school students were polled.

Compared with whites and Hispanics, black high school students were least likely to use tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs; were least likely to drive when drinking alcohol; and were more likely to use condoms during sexual intercourse.

“Overall, in all substance abuse areas, most kids are less likely to engage in risky behaviors over time,” says Renee R. Jenkins, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University College of Medicine. “But what’s most promising is the usage of condoms by black young males.”

According to the survey, 42.3% of Hispanics and 37.4% of whites polled said they did not use a condom the last time they had sex, compared with 31.1% of blacks. “Black boys do better by using condoms,” Jenkins says. “They are getting the message about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Jenkins attributes the results to national, state, and local programs that educate kids about the dangers of risky behaviors. “These programs help kids develop social competency skills. Helping young kids contemplate better futures [helps them] make better choices.”

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