Minister launches Health Behaviour Study in School Children

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety at the Department of Health and Children, Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D., yesterday (22 August 2007) launched the Irish Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study, conducted in 2006 by Principal Investigator Dr Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, and colleagues Dr Colette Kelly and Dr Michal Molcho of the Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway.

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study (HBSC) is the Irish part of a cross-national study of children's health behaviours, attitudes, perceptions and the contexts of children's health - family life, school, relationships with peers and the local community.

Dr Nic Gabhainn has been Principal Investigator for HBSC Ireland since 1994, and this is the third and largest survey of Irish children s health. Previous HBSC surveys were conducted in the Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway in 1998 and 2002. Findings have been widely used to inform both policy and practice developments in relation to child and adolescent health, nationally, regionally and internationally.

Dr Saoirse Nic Gabhainn said: "we in the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway are delighted by the launch of our third report by Minister Gallagher. This new Irish data show where we have made progress in relation to child and adolescent health, for example in food behaviour, smoking and seat-belt use, but also warns us not to be complacent, there remain worrying levels of alcohol consumption, bullying, injuries and hunger".

More than 13,000 children from 3rd class in primary school to 5th year (pre-leaving cert) in post primary schools participated in HBSC Ireland 2006, making it the largest and most robust survey of Irish children.

This first report from the 2006 survey includes data on general health and social well-being, tobacco use, alcohol, drug use, food and dietary behaviour, exercise and physical activity, injuries, self- care and bullying. All findings are presented separately for girls and boys, by age groups and by parental social class.

The key findings of the study include increases in: seatbelt use (79%), meeting physical activity guidelines (55%), fruit (19%) and vegetable (18%) consumption. Decreases in ever (36%) and current smoking (15%), 12 month cannabis rates for older boys (24%), sweet (39%) and soft drink (26%) consumption.

There are also small increases in health (87%) and happiness (91%), with a consistent gender gap in favour of boys. There are few changes in bullying (34%) or reported injuries (43%) which are higher in boys, nor in dieting (12%) or not eating breakfast (14%), which are higher in girls. Consistent social class differences remain, particularly for eating and dieting behaviour.

HBSC Ireland has been supported by the Department of Health and Children and is funded by research grant from the Health Promotion Policy Unit and the Office of the Minister for Children.

ENDS

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