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A descriptive mapping of health promotion studies in young people

What do we want to know?

This review aimed to identify research on health promotion for young people in the areas of accident prevention, mental health, nutrition, physical activity, sexual health and substance abuse. Its purpose was to describe the needs and views of young people with respect to their health, examine the range of interventions undertaken, and make recommendations for future research.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers, practitioners, researchers.

What did we find? 

There is a vast literature on health for young people. Most of this has addressed health issues in isolation from wider societal and political influences and has been restricted to a particular topic area. Relatively few studies address commonalities and influences across different health and risk behaviours.

Most studies have been descriptive rather than reporting evaluated interventions. Many of these which have looked at the methodological quality of evaluations of health promotion interventions have pointed to methodological limitations. This means that the evidence base for health promotion among young people, despite great enthusiasm, effort and commitment, is still relatively small.

What are the implications?

  • The targets set by the Health of the Young Nation Programme need to reflect the fact that different risk- and health-related behaviours are interlinked.
  • Priorities should reflect the fact that tobacco and alcohol use exact the greatest public health tolls in terms of mortality and morbidity.
  • Many interventions are school-based, but the most vulnerable young people are least likely to be in school.
  • Young people are not a homogeneous group, and interventions need to be targeted at different subgroups.
  • Interventions need to be multi-faceted and involve a wide variety of agencies.

How did we get these results?

This report drew on studies identifiable and obtainable through easily accessible sources within the limited time frame for the work (on a part-time basis for three months). Its scope is therefore strongly biased towards published studies in journals indexed by the electronic database systems used. In addition, the findings presented in the review were those claimed by the authors of the studies; they were not assessed for methodological quality.  The chapters on accident prevention, sexual health and tobacco abuse are an exception on this restriction as they are based on recent systematic reviews.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Peersman G (1996) A descriptive mapping of health promotion studies in young people. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

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