Alaska Student Weight Status Surveillance System (SWSSS)
Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Obesity Prevention and Control Program, Student Weight Status Surveillance System
SWSSS is comprised of Alaska student weight status data obtained voluntarily from school districts that have contributed their data as a means of monitoring obesity trends. Participating school districts provide DHSS de-identified student data (i.e., measured height and weight, age, and sex). DHSS conducts the analysis to generate body mass index (BMI), BMI percentile, and the associated weight status classifications of underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese. School districts across the state vary in the grades for which they routinely collect height and weight data. Some districts aim to measure and weigh every student, every year, while other districts target only students in Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th grades. To standardize the results displayed in InstantAtlas, SWSSS is limited to Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grade measurements, labeled "K-8 combined" on the individual district reports. Each participating district's data are weighted to district enrollment levels. Overweight and obesity prevalence for grades K-8 are comparable to two of the Healthy Alaskans 2020 Statewide Leading Health Indicators (childhood overweight and obesity). To provide districts with as much information as possible, DHSS also publishes individual school district weight status reports that provide additional details not found in Instant Atlas. These reports include overweight and obesity prevalence by grade or grade grouping, race/ethnicity reflective of the district enrollment, and, when available, socioeconomic status. These reports include data from grades outside of the K-8 combined indicator so may not match the Instant Atlas results exactly. Individual school district weight status reports are available at http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Pages/Obesity/resources.aspx. As of January 2016, the following school districts are participating in SWSSS and made available on Instant Atlas: Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Kodiak Island Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, North Slope Borough, and Petersburg City. Additional districts have participated; however, their results are not representative of their entire respective districts. For this reason, these results are not displayed in InstantAtlas.
Student height and weight records
Students in K-8
Participating students in K-8
Age, sex, and grade
Summarized by academic year as far back as 2003-2004 for selected school districts
Voluntary submission of height and weight data by school districts
Voluntary participation by school districts
All height and weight records submitted volutarily by participating school districts
Standardized height and weight recording.
One limitation of SWSSS is that height and weight measurements are not collected through a sampling procedure, but are obtained as part of the routine school health screening process. There is variation across school district, grade, and school years in the percentage of enrolled students who contribute to SWSSS. However, because in most school districts efforts are made to screen all students in grades K, 1, 3, 5, 7, it is unlikely that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is subject to a bias that would result in the disproportionate selection of more obese students. Also we take steps to minimize bias by weighting the data to district enrollment by race, sex and grade. There is also considerable variation in the measurement procedures implemented across districts. There are not enough trained professionals such as a school nurses to collect all height and weight measurements in all schools, in all districts. Teachers and other school staff may be called upon to help perform this task. However, at each district a professional such as a school nurse or a public health nurse has oversight of the measurements, and DHSS offers a free online training in measurement protocol to all districts, located at http://anthc.adobeconnect.com/p3bundbielk/. A third limitation is related to measurement equipment. Both within and across districts, schools use different types of measurement equipment. Grantee school districts are required to use approved equipment if using grant funds to purchase measurement equipment. While the variations in procedure and equipment likely result in some degree of random error, it is unlikely the variations would be responsible for systematic under- or over-estimate of weight status. Another limitation is that historically, Anchorage's students have been over-represented in SWSSS. During the 2013-2014 school year Anchorage represented 37% of all students statewide and 59% of the students in SWSSS. It is important to note the surveillance system is still in development and will continue to grow as additional school districts participate. This means that SWSSS will become increasingly representative of students statewide; however, it also means that any analysis involving a trend component will need to be interpreted with caution. Participating school districts also vary in the exact methods they use to extract health record data. To minimize this variation, district contacts are provided a detailed list of required and optional data elements (see table 2 at http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/InfoCenter/Pages/ia/swsss/swsss_health_profiles.aspx).
For data requests that cannot be satisfied through the available links, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (907) 269.3457.
Lauren Kelsey, MPH Obesity Prevention and Control Program Lauren.Kelsey@alaska.gov . 907-269-8165 Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Public Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services 3601 C Street, Suite 722 Anchorage AK 99503