Turning HBSC study data into action: getting the picture in Armenia

What is going on with young people? How do they really feel, how do they spend their time, and what do girls and boys need? Parents and policy-makers are often at a loss to answer these questions accurately.

However, over the last 30 years, the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study, in collaboration with WHO/Europe, has surveyed over 1.2 million children. Currently covering 47 countries and regions across Europe and North America, it collects detailed data directly from young people on the important and sometimes hidden issues in their lives, including their health. This data is informing policy and making a difference in many countries.

One of these countries is Armenia. Ten years ago, Armenia produced its first country report based on HBSC survey data about its children. As well as gleaning information on their health status, it identified worries that children often do not talk about with adults, such as fighting – over half of the 15-year-old boys surveyed had recently been involved in fights. It also found that girls could not talk easily to their fathers, and that half the young people had little knowledge about sex.

Armenia subsequently launched a nationwide healthy lifestyle programme as part of the school curriculum. It also used HBSC data to develop its child and adolescent health and development strategy. In 2014, the survey identified a spike in tobacco use among 15- to 17-year-olds; this is now informing evidence-based tobacco policy.

Thanks to this practical application of data, Armenia has been closely involved in promoting the benefits of the survey in other countries of eastern Europe and central Asia. This includes Turkmenistan, whose pilot survey fed into its first national report on the health of the country’s young people.

Getting an accurate picture of the lives of school-aged children means being able to help them more effectively by targeting policies where they are needed.

More about the HBSC study

The WHO collaborative HBSC study has been a pioneering cross-national study and an invaluable resource for over 30 years, providing insights into young people’s well-being, health behaviours and social context. WHO and many others have used its findings to inform policy and practice in countries and regions across Europe, contributing to improvements in the lives of millions of young people.

The HBSC study in Armenia is led by Sergey Sargsyan from the Arabkir Medical Centre–Institute of Child and Adolescent Health. For more information, contact sergey.sargsyan@hbsc.org.