What are the study data used for?

From an academic perspective, HBSC has contributed greatly to the literature in the area and led to theoretical and methodological development. There’s been an exponential rise in the number of publications coming from the network of national coordinators that’s been established around the surveys. Its contribution in comparative research, that is to say research that compares the health of young people from different countries, is particularly notable.

We also reach non-academic audiences at both national and international levels. At national level we’ve built up a strong relationship with stakeholders who come from different sectors. Policy-makers in government and agencies who have responsibility for health improvement also use the briefing papers we produce.

From evidence to action

We know that these papers, along with other evidence, have stimulated the rolling out of interventions. For example, our work was influential in showing that physical activity in girls was still at a very low level in Scotland and hadn’t really improved in decades. As a result, the programme “Fit for Girls” has been rolled out throughout virtually every school in Scotland. It’s a programme that’s very interactive, involving and empowering girls themselves to have a say in the programmes developed within the schools, so they can say what they would like to have on offer for [physical education] at school.

Another example is the high rates of bullying that we identified in Denmark – that really hit the press. There was a process by which evidence was gathered ,and they set about tackling the issue, and it has declined.

There’s been a particularly big impact in some eastern European countries doing the study for the first time, where previously there’re no comparable data in their countries. Usually there are surprises and they are really able to see where the stand-out issues are.

Internationally, HBSC has been used by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to show how countries rank against each other for child well-being. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also used the data in its reports “Doing better for children” and “Doing better for families”. These high-profile reports are used to lobby governments to take action.