TX SPAN Data Explorer

Published: January 17, 2023

The population of Texas is a bellwether for the larger demographic shifts we have seen nationwide. Texas’ young, multicultural population can tell us a lot about the health status of children in both the state and the nation, especially since one of every 10 children in the U.S. lives in Texas. The Texas School Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (Texas SPAN) is a statewide serial cross-sectional surveillance study that measures the health status of school-aged children by collecting state-representative data about their diets, activity levels, and other related behaviors. Texas SPAN is designed to be representative of the Texas school-aged populations in grades 2, 4, 8 and 11, and data have been collected over 5 time periods from 2000 – 2002 to 2019 – 2020.  Data from all of the collection periods (2000-2002, 2004-2005, 2009-2011, 2015-2016, and 2019-2020) are now summarized online at the Texas SPAN Data Explorer, an interactive webpage.   

The Texas SPAN Data Explorer contains variables of interest across three categories: diet, physical activity/sedentary behavior, and health status. Users can select a variable and specify if they would like to see statistics by a particular region (statewide, border, or non-border), gender, grade, and whether to separate by racial/ethnic group.  A particularly useful feature is that changes in these variables can be tracked over time.  For example, the data shown in the figure below illustrate how computer use changed between 2015-2016 and 2019-2020.  While some variables, such as computer use, are only available for a limited number of years, other variables are available across all 4 or more of the data collection periods.


Data source: Texas SPAN 2000-2002 to 2019-2020, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health.  Funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The Texas SPAN Data Explorer makes data accessible to a variety of stakeholders to inform their population and public health decision-making. The Texas SPAN Data Explorer has been valuable to a variety of stakeholders such as pediatricians, policymakers, school administrators, researchers, and students, who seek a quick and precise way to examine state-level statistics relating to the health behaviors of children in Texas. For example, pediatricians can track child health behaviors and trends to inform their recommendations. Policymakers can use the database to inform legislation to make better use of resources and improve child health. School administrators can use the data to inform health curricula, improve physical education, and support food service operations. The Texas SPAN Data Explorer can also be useful to students and researchers who need reliable and state-representative child health data.

Texas is one of the few states in the country to assess child diet, activity behaviors, and statewide obesity rates in this way across elementary, middle, and high school grades. Including multicultural populations from across the state can give stakeholders insight into communities they might not otherwise be able to access. Categorizing data by grade level, border and non-border regions, and race/ethnicity can help us identify health disparities and inform future public health programming. By painting a clear picture of the health status and behavior of children, we can strengthen our state and regional efforts to improve child health. The Texas SPAN Data Explorer is a valuable resource for those wanting to examine child health trends in Texas – come and give it a look!