How healthy are our children?

The Health Related Behaviour of Primary and Secondary School Pupils in Newcastle

The results of a detailed survey of children and young people in Newcastle released today (6 November) give us a real time insight into what’s happening with the health of our local children.

The survey has been run every other year over six years now and real trends have emerged.

The results will be officially launched at a conference called ‘This is Me 2017’ being held on 7 November at the Marriott Gosforth Park Hotel for professionals working with children and young people.

It will also highlight some of the excellent practice already in place in the city to help improve the health related behaviour of children and young people, and explore what more needs to be done to improve children’s health and wellbeing further.

Newcastle City Council has undertaken a large survey of the self-reported health related behaviours and perceptions of a large sample of primary and secondary school pupils attending city schools in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The survey was conducted with Year 4, 6, 8 and 10 pupils (pupils aged between 8 and 15 years) and in 2017 survey involved 6404 children and young people attending 67 local schools.

The council and its schools are using the survey results to help plan and undertake interventions to improve pupil health and wellbeing.

It is possible to compare the results over time since 2011, to see the changing health related behaviour of children and young people. Some significant positive trends have been identified, although also emerging are some significant concerns and negative trends in the health behaviour and perceptions of children and young people.

Overall the picture emerging is encouraging - with fewer children smoking, being exposed to secondhand smoke, trying alcohol or illegal drugs and fewer in Year 10 reporting that they are sexually active.

More children and young people are also eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, and there has been a decrease in the number of primary school pupils who report that they have been bullied at or near school in the last 12 months since 2011.

However of concern is that secondary school pupils are not active enough, and those in primary schools are also less active outside school.

E-safety is another concern as more and more children and young people in the city access the internet and other digital media.

But they are sometimes accessing adult only images and putting themselves at risk by meeting someone they have first met online, or are failing to apply good privacy settings to their social media accounts. 

Commenting on the importance of the survey, Councillor Jane Streather, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Housing, said:

“Newcastle City Council is pleased to conduct this comprehensive survey of our children and young people’s health behaviour and perceptions. We know that healthy children do better in learning and in life and that if healthy behaviours can be established at an early age, we will help to improve the life chances of our younger generation.

"Parents/carers, our schools and communities all play a really important role in helping children to lead healthy lifestyles. We are committed to making Newcastle a healthier city for today’s and tomorrow’s generations and the results of this survey will help to guide us in how best we can do this." 

Eugene Milne, Newcastle’s Director of Public Health, added:

“This survey is of particular importance because it is represents such a large sample of children and because it has been repeated over a number of years; this means we are able to identify trends in attitudes and behaviour.

“We can see that some health messages are really getting through to young people; the five a day message for example, and that fact that fewer children are reporting that they are smoking or drinking alcohol is really good news, but the decline in physical activity levels and increasing risks presented by internet and social media use is a concern for us and shows that we still have much to do in these areas.”