Guernsey's Young People
Two decades of SHEU Health-Related Behaviour Surveys
The Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU) have been working with the colleagues from the Bailiwick of Guernsey for two decades now, and our survey work has accumulated a database of over 10,000 cases. These have mostly been whole-population lifestyle surveys but some have been focussed on particular topics or groups.
David Regis and I recently visited Guernsey to summarise the findings of these surveys and the trends they show, and to compare the trends seen in Guernsey with those seen in the SHEU databanks from mainland UK.
There was lots to say! Some trends found in Guernsey were also seen in the UK, but some were found only in one data set, or much more plainly in only one set. One of the great things about working in Guernsey is the possibility of concerted action. While Angela and David were talking they could see significant glances being passed between the departments of education and health, and between politicians.
Perhaps the best example to look at is the figures for smoking. There was a sharp drop in reported smoking levels, across both age group and genders, in Guernsey between 1997 and 2002.
Data from the SHEU’s UK databanks do not show a sharp drop over the same period but a smaller drop, for the older pupils, in later years.
Professionals and politicians in Guernsey can take full credit for this achievement, because they took a number of actions to tackle smoking in young people.
In 1996 the States supported a 'tobacco package' brought by the Board of Health, which included:
* Advertising ban at point of sale (from Nov. 1997)
* Increase in Tobacco Excise Duty (1997)
* Raising of legal age of purchase in January 1997
accompanied by publicity about test purchases
* Smoking cessation initiatives (Nicotine Replacement
Therapy, Guernsey Quitline)
* Guernsey Adolescent non-Smoking Package (GASP),
including 'Smokebusters' in all primary schools, and a
programme for use with older pupils (in and out of school
* Continued activity by Parents Against Tobacco, including involvement of a local sports figure
affected by smoking-related illness.
The Bill and its associated activities was described at the time as 'the most important precedent in tobacco control in the Western World in recent years'. This collection of recent, relevant and vigorous anti-smoking activity is undoubtedly a plausible explanation of the drop in smoking levels seen between 1997 and 2002.
We looked at many other findings, which can be summarised as follows:
* Figures for Guernsey were often better than reference sample.
* Changes we have seen in Guernsey includes a rise in scores for self-esteem,
eating vegetables, awareness of sexual health services, girls' soccer, and
perhaps also a rise in levels of exercise
* We have seen falls in levels of cannabis use as well as smoking tobacco.
There is still a challenge to be faced of young people's use of alcohol,
something Guernsey shares with the rest of the UK.
Guernsey has shown that concerted local effort can bring results. From our point of view in SHEU, we are happy to see how regular survey work is used to prompt and monitor good work with young people.