Nurturing a child’s development is important at any age, but there is a particular window of opportunity from 12 to 18 years of age to lay down patterns that will provide life-long benefits.
Cross-national comparisons and evaluation of health-related programs and interventions are core aspects of our work and particular attention is given to young people's perceptions and the influence of social context. The effects of family, peers, socioeconomic circumstances and school are considered in relation to key determinants of health including physical activity, smoking, risk behaviors and mental health.
In Palestine, rapid urbanization or modernization and sedentary lifestyle participated in increasing the prevalence rates of overweight and obesity in all age groups. Recent national study from the HBSC-2004 survey among adolescents aged 12-18 years found that 16.5% (20.4% boys; 13.0% girls) of the adolescents were overweight. We are looking at planning of interventions, at national level, aiming at improving diet and increase physical activity in the population, and particularly in children and women of childbearing age.
Health Behaviour in School-aged Children: a World Health Organisation Collaborative Cross-National Study (HBSC)
HBSC is a cross-national study involving a multi-disciplinary network of researchers from 43 countries & regions in Europe and North America. The Palestinian component of the HBSC study is described below.
The HBSC study aims to gain new insight into, and increase understanding of adolescent health behaviours, health and lifestyles in their social context. HBSC was initiated in 1982 by researchers from 3 countries (Finland, Norway and England) and shortly afterwards the project was adopted by the World Health Organization as a WHO collaborative study. The first cross-national survey was conducted in 1983/84 and since then data collection has been carried out every four years using a common research protocol. The HBSC survey instrument is a standard questionnaire developed by the international network of researchers and used by all participating countries. The target age groups are 11, 13 and 15 year olds with a sample of approximately 1500 from each age group in all participating countries. The data collected in each country is compiled into an international data file, which is managed by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) at the University of Bergen in Norway under the guidance of the study's Data Bank Manager.
Each survey questionnaire contains a core set of questions looking at the following:
- Health behaviors: physical activity, eating and dieting, smoking, alcohol use, cannabis use, sexual behavior, violence and bullying, injuries
- Background factors: demographics, social background (family structure, socio-economic status), maturation
Individual and social resources: body image, family support, peers, school environment
- Health outcomes: symptoms, life satisfaction, self-reported health, Body Mass Index
The international standard questionnaire enables the collection of common data across all participating countries and thus enables the quantification of patterns of key health behaviours, health indicators and contextual variables. These data allow cross-national comparisons to be made and, with successive surveys, trend data is gathered and may be examined at both the national and cross-national level. As well as being a research and monitoring study, HBSC also aims to inform and have impact on health promotion and health education policy, programs and practice aimed at young people at both national and international levels.
Following each survey an international report giving an overview of the findings is produced. More information is available on the study's website at www.hbsc.org.
CAHRU (Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit)
Established in 2000, CAHRU is dedicated to improving understanding of child and adolescent health in Palestine. Cross-national comparisons and evaluation of health-related programs and interventions are core aspects of our work and particular attention is given to young people's perceptions and the influence of social context. The effects of family, peers, socioeconomic circumstances and school are considered in relation to key determinants of health including physical activity, smoking, risk behaviors and mental health. The Unit has an important role as the International Coordinating Centre of the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) World Health Organization Collaborative Cross-national Study, which at present involves 43 countries across Europe and North America.
Our research has achieved the followings:
- Contributed to scientific evidence base on Palestinian adolescent health and its determinants.
- Established and strengthened a multi-disciplinary international network of researchers
- Disseminated research findings to Ministry of Education and other stakeholders where policy effort matters as well as direction of that effort matters
- Developed ecological and developmental perspectives that inform health promotion in schools, families and local communities