SHARP Survey

We know parents make the best decisions for their children if they have the information they need. Parents need to know what types of things are happening in their child’s school and in their community. This helps parents know what to talk about, so they can help their child navigate adolescence.

The Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey is the most comprehensive source of information on the challenges and opportunities our youth face. Parents have always been involved in the survey. It can be a springboard for having those tough conversations at home—even for families who choose to not participate—about drug and alcohol use, social media, and even why kids need more sleep!.

What is the SHARP survey?

The SHARP survey has been conducted every other year for the last 20 years. It asks questions about substance use; safe and healthy relationships; connection to family, school, and community; physical, social, and mental health; risky or harmful behaviors and what protects kids from these things. 

The SHARP survey has been one of the most valuable data collection tools for our state. It provides parents, school, and public health with information they can't get anywhere else, or from any other data source— because the information comes from the students themselves. 

It’s an opportunity for adolescents to tell us about the many challenges they face in today’s world — and how well they think they’re prepared to handle them — without the fear of getting in trouble or the risk of someone thinking less of them.

Where can I find the SHARP data?

SHARP data can be explored by downloading the statewide report or region-specific reports below. You can also use the Utah SHARP Web Tool, which was developed by Bach Harrison LLC in collaboration with the Utah Office of Substance Use and Mental Health. 

The 2023 data is also available to query on the Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health or IBIS-PH website (under the Utah Prevention Needs Assessment” or Youth Risk Behavior Survey” data query tab). 

Where can I find the data for my school district?

Contact your local school district superintendent for a copy of your school district report. 

How is the data from the SHARP survey used?

Data from the SHARP survey has been used to:

  • Educate parents about the harms of social media on youth.
  • Expand access to mental health services and resources.
  • Create the Parents Empowered campaign which encourages parents to talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking.
  • Create the Know Your Script Campaign which empowers Utahns to make smart decisions and ask the right questions regarding prescription drug use. 
  • Develop the SafeUT mobile app and Live On suicide prevention campaign.
  • Create a program that pairs kids struggling with school with the Foster Grandparents Program in a local community to help build connections and resilience. 
  • Pass legislation that restricts the places where flavored vaping products that appeal to children can be sold.

Is the SHARP survey voluntary?

Yes. The survey is voluntary and both parents and students must give consent to participate. Nearly 52,000 students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 participated in the 2023 survey. 

Is parent consent required to take the SHARP survey?

Yes. Parent consent is—and has always been—required. SHARP is an opt-in survey. Only students who have parent permission are allowed to take the survey. Students may choose to skip any questions they don’t understand or don’t want to answer. They will not be penalized for not participating.

When will I be able to give consent for my child to take the SHARP survey?

YIn early Spring 2025, each school district and charter school in the state will be invited to participate in the SHARP survey. Districts that choose to participate are then required to send out a parent consent letter and form before the survey can be administered.

School districts have the freedom to choose how parent consent will be collected and tracked. Some school districts may choose to get parent consent during fall registration or the beginning of each term, when other classroom consent forms are gathered. Others may choose to send out the parent consent letter and form a few weeks before the survey is administered. School districts can use electronic or paper-based consent forms. Talk to your school district or school principal if you have questions about how and when you will be asked for consent.

Schools must track which students have parent consent. Schools do not share this information with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services or any other agency. The parent consent letter provides a link to view the survey questions, explains the purpose of the survey, and includes contact information for SHARP staff as well as DHHS IRB if they have questions or concerns. Parents must sign the form and check that their student does or does not have permission to take the SHARP survey. Only students who have parent permission are allowed to take the survey. Students can choose to stop the survey at any time or can choose to skip any questions they don't understand or don't want to answer.

Learn more about the survey protocols and what information is provided to school districts and teachers who help administer the survey.

Is the SHARP survey data anonymous? 

Yes. The survey is anonymous and the data is confidential. The results can in no way be tied back to an individual student or their family. Students are not asked for identifying information such as their name or student ID.

For schools which choose to administer the survey online, each school is provided a unique school-named survey URL which all students who have permission to take the survey use. The online survey does not require students to login and does not track any identifying information or data associated with their device (computer, tablet).

Where can I see the questions on the survey?

The questions your child gets depend on the grade they are in. Sixth graders do not get the same survey as older students. It's taken during school and takes about 30-45 minutes. You can find the survey questions below or in your school office.

There are 5 different sets of questions used in the SHARP survey.

  • 6th graders could get 1 of 2 sets of questions, referred to as the SHARP-PNA 6th grade forms A or B. The set of questions for 6th graders have been modified based on feedback from parents, school administrators, and public health professionals to better meet younger students’ abilities and needs.
    • Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNA) Form A, 6th (this set of questions is only given to 6th graders)
    • Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNA) Form B, 6th (this set of questions is only given to 6th graders)
  • 8th graders could get 1 of 2 sets of questions, referred to as the SHARP-PNA forms A or B.
    • Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNA) Form A (this set of questions is given to 8, 10, or 12 graders)
    • Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNA) Form B (this set of questions is given to 8, 10, or 12 graders)
  • High school students (grades 10 and 12) could get 1 of 3 sets of questions, referred to as the SHARP-PNA forms A or B or the SHARP-YRBS form.
    • Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNA) Form B (this set of questions is given to 8, 10, or 12 graders)
    • Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNA) Form B (this set of questions is given to 8, 10, or 12 graders)
    • Utah SHARP Youth Risk Behavior Survey (this set of questions can only be given to high school students)

Why are there different sets of questions?

Years ago, 3 different health surveys were administered at different times to students; the Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA), Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), and Youth Tobacco Survey. This created a burden on schools. It also meant students were spending more classroom time taking similar health surveys. At the request of the Utah State Board of Education and local school districts, the surveys were combined into a single survey administration given during the Spring of odd years (typically from February to May). This survey is now known as the Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey.

While the SHARP survey still includes sets of questions from both of these surveys, the process is done as a single survey administration. This change has helped to streamline the administration process, lessen the burden and time required of schools and students to take the survey, and made the data easier for parents and others to use.

Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA) questions

Students in 6, 8, 10, or 12 grade are the primary audience for the SHARP-PNA questions. While rare, some larger school districts choose to administer the SHARP survey to all students in grades 6-12. In these instances, 6th graders would still only receive the SHARP-PNA 6th grade forms A or B. Students in grades 7 and above would only receive one of the SHARP-PNA forms A or B.

The SHARP-PNA questions are designed to gather school district level data at minimum, which requires roughly 500 students per grade (or for districts with lower participation, a census is required) for the data to be valid and reliable. School districts have the option to attempt a census of students to obtain school-level data, rather than just district-level data. In large districts that choose to administer the minimum sample (500 students per grade), roughly 15-20 schools are randomly selected for the sample, and within those schools, classes are randomly selected to participate in the SHARP survey. In smaller school districts with fewer than 500 students per grade, the survey can only be given to a census of grades 6, 8, 10, and 12. For districts with more than 500 students per grade, the district may opt-in to a bigger sample designed to gather quality school-level data.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) questions

Only students in high school (9-12 grade) can get the YRBS questions on the SHARP survey. The YRBS questions are used by nearly every state in the U.S. as part of a national survey conducted by the CDC. When you hear about a trending health topic among high school students in the news, it’s most likely data from the YRBS. From 1991 through 2021, the YRBS has collected data from more than 5 million high school students in more than 2,200 separate surveys.

The YRBS questions are designed to gather state-level data. Roughly 2,000 students are randomly sampled for participation (via randomly selected set-period classes). About 50-60 schools in Utah are randomly selected for that sample by the CDC.

How long does it take to finish the survey?

30-45 minutes at the most, depending on whether the student is taking the survey online or on paper. It’s OK if a student doesn’t finish the survey.

Who has access to the data?

Reports with aggregate data only are available on this webpage. These reports do not contain any identifying information about students. Local health departments, local prevention coalitions, local schools and school districts, superintendents, health systems, public health professionals, and most importantly, parents use these reports to develop programs and services to help Utah youth and families.

The raw data is very limited in who can or can't use it and is protected under strict Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Institutional Review Board (IRB) controls. The DHHS IRB controls any data sharing agreements for the raw data files. Only respected researchers in good standing and who are expanding the general sphere of knowledge are considered for data sharing agreements. Individuals wanting to use the raw data for their own purposes are not considered. However, again, no identifying information about a student is collected in the SHARP survey.

Why is the SHARP survey important?

The most important information we get from the SHARP survey isn’t knowing how many adolescents face challenges, or engage in risky or harmful behaviors. The most important information we get helps us connect the dots about what actually works to help kids navigate this time in their lives and keeps them from making harmful choices (often called protective factors). 

Parents, schools, and public health use this information to provide resources and better help kids navigate adolescence. The survey drives evidence-based prevention programs and informs us what to focus on. The data tells us:

  • What types of things actually work to help adolescents make good decisions, and the types of things that put them at risk or didn’t work. 
  • What things adolescents may need extra help, support, or education with so they can make good decisions in hard situations.
  • How much influence friends, parents, and community have on an adolescent’s choices; especially how much influence friends, parents, and community have on whether or not adolescents choose to use or try drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.
  • Information about how adolescents feel at school, home, and in their communities.
  • The effect different things, people, or environments have on their social and emotional well-being and the decisions they make during adolescence.

What do Utah parents think of the SHARP survey?

We asked parents from 20 school districts across the state how they felt about the SHARP survey. Here’s what we learned:

  • Parents were overwhelmingly supportive of the SHARP survey, even among those who had some concerns with it. Only 1 in 3 parents had heard about the SHARP survey before the focus groups. The good news? All of the parents who did know about SHARP allowed their children to take the survey. And, most parents said they would likely give permission to take it in the future.
  • Parents felt the survey would help them have tough conversations with their kids about the challenges they face. They felt the survey was a benefit because it could help them know what to talk to their children about and how to help them.
  • Parents want more communication from their schools about SHARP. They want multiple reminders and ways to sign the consent form.
  • Parents want to know how the data is being used in their schools, school districts, and communities.
  • Parents want to be given the choice to have their children participate in the survey.