The teenage years can be challenging, both emotionally and physically, for young people. They represent a period of rapid change and are an important period of development and transition from childhood to adulthood.
NCPHWR Researchers James White, Michaela James and Professor Jane Noyes talk about their research around prevention and explain why the teenage years are so pivotal in healthy development.
Dr James White, NCPHWR Researcher, based at DECIPHer, Cardiff University
Risk behaviours, such as smoking and drug use, can group together during the teenage years – leading to health problems and diseases later in life. Currently, we do not know which interventions are effective in preventing multiple risk behaviours among children and young people.
In a recent collaborative review led by Bristol University Medical School, we analysed existing studies which looked at ways of preventing or decreasing engagement in two or more risk behaviours among young people aged 8 to 25 years.
The team’s findings suggest that universal school‐based interventions, offered to all children, were the most effective way of preventing multiple risk behaviours, such as tobacco use, alcohol use, illicit drug use, and antisocial behaviour, as well as physical activity among young people.
The finding that a single school-based intervention was effective in preventing more than one risk behaviour is important as schools provide a replicable platform for population-wide intervention delivery.
Michaela James, NCPHWR Researcher (ACTIVE), based at Swansea University
The UK department of health recommends that young people (aged five to 18) should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. But not enough teenagers actually do.
In schools, children and teens are taught from a young age about the benefits of being active. They should know that it reduces the risk of obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes, and increases well-being. Yet the lack of teenagers’ activity has become such an issue that it is now a serious public health concern.
For our latest project, ACTIVE (The active children through individual vouchers evaluation project), we wanted to give young people the chance to make their own recommendations to help others of the same age be more active now, and carry on being active in the future.
We worked with more than 70 teenagers from seven secondary schools in Swansea to come up with a list of easily implementable recommendations. Recommendations ranged from lowering the cost, making activities more local, giving teenagers a choice of activities and providing activities at girls enjoy.
Researchers and policy makers play a vital role in designing physical activity schemes, but they often do not speak directly to the groups they want to target. By including the teens’ own recommendations in solutions for the future, we might be able to finally solve the national problem of young people being inactive.
We cannot underestimate the power of prevention in the form of activity, not just for physical health but also for mental health too. We are excited to take ACTIVE forward and turn it into a leading project for prevention.
Professor Jane Noyes, Deputy Director NCPHWR, based in Bangor University
Around 49,000 children aged 0–18 years in the UK are living with a life‐limiting or life‐threatening condition and around 13,000 are in the 18–25 age group. In the UK, planning for transition services can start at around age 14 years and continues up until transfer between the ages of 16–18 years.
Despite two decades of research and initiatives to improve the quality of the service, young people with life-limiting conditions still find transition unsatisfactory – and we still do not fully understand what the differences between children’s and adult palliative care services are that create difficulties for young people.
In our study we explored these differences, difficulties and experiences of young people and their families during the transition in more depth. We identified 6 areas where conflicting realities existed, that help explain the confusion, anger and alienation young people and their parents experienced – including differences in communication, involvement in decision making and funding. The work also included a set of recommendations for a new palliative care model to support the transition from child to adult care.
The findings and recommendations from our study provide guidance that can be used to prevent these issues and bring about changes in practice, helping target care more effectively and ultimately lead to a significantly better service and quality of life for patients and their families.
Young people with life-limiting conditions can be traumatised and their health and wellbeing can be affected by the process of transitioning from children’s to adult services. A more proactive approach to prevent the known problems in communication and service coordination from occurring could help mitigate the negative impacts on young people and their families.
Click the image below to read the next article which focuses on supporting parents and the family: