The GSHS Curaçao

This page provides information on the Curaçao Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSHS), the national survey on health-related behavior (and protective factors) which may affect the short and long-term health of our youth. In Curaçao, the survey was carried out for the first time in October and November of 2015.

The report containing the results of this survey is available here.

What is the GSHS?

The GSHS is a health survey carried out among 12 to 17-year-old youths attending school and is part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) international Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS). The GSHS was developed by the WHO in collaboration with the UNICEF, UNESCO and UNAIDS, with technical assistance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the U.S. office of the WHO, coordinates the survey in Curaçao, as they consider it extremely important to obtain an accurate picture of our students’ health and well-being. Thus far, 17 Caribbean islands have participated in this survey. More information on the survey and the results for other islands and countries is available on the WHO’s website, In Curaçao, the survey was carried out for the first time in October and November of 2015.

Which topics are covered in the survey?

The survey included questions on the following topics:

1. Alcohol use

2. Tobacco use

3. Dietary behavior

4. Hygiene

5. Drug use

6. Mental health

7. Physical activity

8. Protective factors

9. Sexual behavior

10. HIV-related knowledge

11. Violence and unexpected injury

Why is this survey important?

A number of schools in Curaçao participated in the Biba Amor project of the Ministry of Health, Environment and Nature in 2012/2013, and the results of this project have helped in providing a better picture of the sexual-health attitudes of youths attending school and the information they have on the subject. Within the context of that study, the need arose for more information on health-related behavior (and protective factors) that may affect the short and long-term health of our youth.

The importance of the Curaçao GSHS is threefold. First of all, the survey’s results yield insight into health-related behavior of the school-going population, in turn providing information needed to determine the focus of prevention programs and enabling those programs to be more tailored. Second, the survey provides important data to be used in forming youth and health policy. The results also serve as a basis for policy measures and reports providing a picture of Curaçao’s youth. Third, the results for Curaçao can be directly compared to those of other Caribbean islands and beyond, making it possible to compare the Curaçaoan school-going population with that of other countries and see what aspects stand out.

How is the survey conducted in schools?

We know that schools are overwhelmed by survey requests and make sure that you and your school’s participation will involve as little work as possible. That is why there is a research assistant from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) present at all times to handle logistics while the questionnaires are being filled out. A questionnaire takes between 30 and 45 minutes.

Based on a scientific approach, 28 public secondary schools and SBOs were selected to participate in this study. For the SBO schools, only first and second-grade students will participate.

How is the students privacy protected?

We are well aware of the privacy issues involved with the data we collect. The research assistants have experience in handling confidential information, have signed a confidentiality statement and will handle the information with due care. The students are specifically asked not to write their name on the questionnaire. The research assistant takes the completed questionnaires away in sealed envelopes so that the answers cannot be viewed by other students or teachers. The questionnaires are processed anonymously by the CDC. Published results cannot be traced back to any individual student, class, school or even school board, thus protecting the privacy of all participants.

What is the time schedule?

In August 2015 the school boards are approached and the schools are invited to participate in the study. The participating school boards are requested to appoint a contact person per school. The contact person receives a form with the request to fill in the overview of all classes (class names) of the school. From this list, the researchers make a random selection of classes. Depending on the school size, this involves three to six classes per school. By selecting a small number of classes per school, we limit the impact of the research on the regular school curriculum.

In October and November 2015 the contact person of a school is approached to make an appointment for the questionnaire. We also provide a sample letter that can be used by the school to inform the parents of the students about the research. This letter can be sent to the students a few days before the questionnaire is completed and is attached to this letter for information. [RP1]

On the day of taking a research assistant will visit to guide the completion of the questionnaire. The questionnaire will be completed in class and the completion of it will take 30 to 45 minutes.

A report containing the most important research results will be published in mid-2016.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are you doing this study?

In 2013, the Public Health Institute Curaçao carried out the national health survey among people aged 18 and older. As a result, recent information is now available on, among other things, the state of health and the health behavior of adults. No representative data is yet available on the health behavior (and protective factors) of our young people. This is important, because behavior that develops in this phase of life can lead to diseases and disorders later in life in the long term. That is why we are now also mapping the health of 12 to 17-year-olds.

Why is our school selected for participation in the GSHS-Curaçao?

A scientific approach was used to select the schools, a so-called sample. A list of all schools in Curaçao was used to draw the sample. A school is thus completely randomly selected from this list. The random selection is also important for the representativeness of the research results.

Why is participation of our school important?

To get a good picture of the health behavior (and the protective factors) of our students it is important that as many schools as possible participate. The more schools participate, the better the research results are representative for the pupils. Not only the school level is important, but also the location and size of the school.

I want our school to participate in the study. How do we qualify for this?

A scientific approach was used to select the schools, a so-called sample. The schools that have been invited to participate in the survey have been chosen at random. As a result, the research results are representative for all students in Curaçao. If your school is not invited to participate, this does not mean that the research results do not relate to the pupils of your school. Due to the scientific approach, it is not necessary to question students in all schools.

Why is it not allowed for our school to decide which classes participate in the study?

The reason that the researchers select the participating classes has to do with the representativeness of the research results. We do this in a random way, so that each student has the same opportunity to be selected for participation. This is important because the research results are then representative for all students in Curaçao.

I am concerned about the questions about the sexual behavior of young people. Why do you ask these questions?

On Curaçao the number of teenage pregnancies is relatively high. These teenage pregnancies are also often undesirable, according to the high number of abortions that take place. From the results of the 'Biba Amor' project, in which several schools in Curaçao participated in in 2012/2013, it appears that many young people lack the knowledge to avoid the negative consequences of sexual behavior. Sexually transmitted diseases are also relatively common among young people. In 2013, a quarter of the 15 to 24-year-olds who had been tested turned out to be infected with chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium that causes infertility. In order to protect young people from the negative consequences of sexual behavior, we therefore ask questions about this. In this way we get an idea about this aspect of health behavior among young people and prevention programs can be tailor-made.

Does the study require a heavy load on the curriculum and the teachers?

No, the completion of the questionnaire is organized in such a way that the load is kept to a minimum. An appointment is made with each school at a time that suits the school. At each school, a research assistant visits to collect the questionnaires from the selected classes. Depending on the size of the school, three to six classes participate in school.

Our students already participate (or have already participated) in another study on health. Why should we participate in this study now?

The selection of schools in other studies is often not representative of all pupils. This means that the research data only says something about the pupils who completed the questionnaire. The other studies also often focus specifically on one topic, for example sexual behavior or dental health. The advantage of this is that more information about that specific topic becomes available. The disadvantage is that there is still no clear picture of the general health behavior of young people in Curaçao. That is what the GSHS-Curaçao, with research data that is representative for all students and internationally comparable, provides.

Shouldn't the parents give permission for the participation of their children?
The schools receive a letter from the researchers, which they can provide to the parents and in which they are informed about the GSHS-Curaçao. Parents who object to their child taking part in the research can make this known.

Do you also publish results from individual schools and school boards?
No, to ensure the privacy of all participants, we do not publish results about individual schools and school boards. Moreover, the number of pupils taking part in each school is often too small to make reliable statements about it. It can also violate the privacy of the students to make these results known.

Where will the results of the study be announced?

The results of the GSHS Curaçao will be published in the media and on the website of the Public Health Institute Curaçao in mid-2016. This is after the school boards and schools that participated in the study received the report.