Can school-based prevention keep young people healthy?

Operating at the intersection of education and public health


We’ve seen progress in adolescent sexual risk behaviors and high-risk substance use, but we’ve also seen concerning upticks in adolescents experiencing violence and poor mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a leader in using data to drive action to address these harmful experiences.

CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) works to maximize the protective effects of safe and supportive school environments and school connectedness. When students feel safe and connected with a supportive school community, they do better emotionally, socially, and academically. The more activities a school implements to enhance safe and supportive environments, the greater the positive impact on health outcomes.


Westat supports DASH’s mission by helping DASH communicate effectively about its research and proven strategies for helping youth thrive. Westat provides strategic communication planning, guides digital and social media strategy, develops key messages to translate DASH’s data into action, and creates messages and materials to reach multiple stakeholders.

Using performance data and audience assessments, we developed an innovative social media strategy that emphasizes qualitative success, proactive engagement, and leveraging platform features like threads and quote tweets. Working with DASH, the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), and the Office of the Associate Director for Communication (OADC) to gather metrics, we provide data-driven recommendations to increase reach and engagement in support of DASH’s communication priorities.


For DASH’s 30th anniversary, Westat developed a suite of materials featuring DASH grantees and what it takes to move the needle on school health policies.

Our products included the What Is YRBS? (YouTube video), which explains the importance of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) in improving health outcomes and was awarded a Digital Health Award and Telly Award. In 2019, we developed the #WhyYRBS initiative to spark discussion about why YRBS matters to the health of our nation’s youth. Video “shorts” from What Is YRBS?, e-newsletters, web content, and partner outreach complemented social media promotion to generate nearly 1 million impressions.


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