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Frequently Asked Questions
HEALTH BEHAVIOUR IN SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN (HBSC) IRELAND
World Health Organization Collaborative Cross-National Study
The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey is a WHO collaborative cross-national study that monitors the health behaviours, health outcomes and social environments of school-aged children every four years. HBSC Ireland surveys school-going children aged 9-18 years. The study is conducted by the HBSC Ireland team, based at the Health Promotion Research Centre, University of Galway.
The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) team have identified a number of frequently asked questions (FAQ) regarding the survey in Ireland. These are divided into the following categories:
Q. Who conducts the survey?
A. The Health Promotion Research Centre, University of Galway is responsible for organising the study in Ireland. The Centre conducted the survey in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, & 2022.
Q. Who funds the study?
A. The survey in Ireland is funded by the National Ministry of Health. Funding has also been received from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council.
Q. Why is the survey being done?
A. The study will help us gain new insight into and to improve our understanding of the health behaviours of young people. The results will also help with future development of health-related policy and practice, creating better opportunities for young people’s health. The 2022 survey was the seventh time that Ireland has been involved helping us to track changes over time and identify best practice.
Q. How does the HBSC survey differ from other surveys on children’s health?
A. HBSC is unique because it attempts to shed light on the factors that shape and influence health and health behaviour. For example, questions on relationships with others and on the local area in which young people grow up are included. In addition, the international aspect of HBSC helps us to monitor international trends and to exchange strategies and practices where certain countries have been more successful in containing particular risk behaviours (e.g. drug use). HBSC is the most comprehensive study of early adolescent health behaviour.
Q. Is there support for the survey?
A. The Department of Education and Science supports the study and recognises its importance. We have also fully informed the organisations representing school management, teachers and parents. Approval to conduct the HBSC survey was obtained from the NUI Galway Research Ethics Committee.
Q. What is the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the HBSC?
A. WHO serves as a collaborating partner with the 51 participating countries and regions involved with HBSC. It provides support to smaller, less economically advantaged countries that wish to participate in HBSC. WHO has been instrumental in the development, publication, and dissemination of the international data resulting from the surveys. In addition WHO employs data to inform and monitor child and adolescent health policy across Europe.
Q. How are children chosen to take part?
A. A sample of schools are selected randomly in a way that ensures equal representation of children and adolescents in education in Ireland. All types of schools from around the country are selected.
Q. What classes are included?
A. In Ireland, the HBSC survey is administered to children in primary and post-primary schools ranging from 3rd class upwards (excluding Leaving Certificate students).
Q. What kinds of questions are asked on the HBSC survey?
A. Different questions are asked of children of different ages. To understand the factors that shape and influence health and health behaviours, the survey asks questions on relationships with families and others, perceptions of school as a supportive environment, alcohol and tobacco use, drug use, diet, physical activity, injuries and the communities in which the students live. Some questions are not suitable for younger children and are not included on the questionnaires for them. Students can choose not to answer questions if they so wish.
Q. How long will it take to complete the questionnaire?
A. It takes approximately 30 minutes. For younger classes the questionnaire is shorter.
Q. Will students be recognisable?
A. No, the study is confidential and students do not put their names on the questionnaires.
Q. Can students' names be used or linked to surveys?
A. Survey administration procedures are designed to protect student privacy and allow for anonymous participation. Students do not put their names on the survey and no personal identifiers are used on any of the materials. No information on any individual child will ever be made public. Reports will not include names of participating schools or students.
Q. Are students tracked over time to see how their behaviour changes?
A. No. Participating students cannot be tracked because no identifying information is ever connected to their completed questionnaire.
Q. Will the school be recognisable?
A. No, the study is confidential and no specific school will be recognisable.
Q. Can students/schools choose not to take part?
A. The decision to take part is completely voluntary.
Q. Who administers the survey to the students?
A. Teachers are nominated by the Principal to administer the survey. Guidelines for the ideal conditions (i.e. an exam setting) are provided. Students seal their questionnaires in blank envelopes provided prior to collection; this assures the anonymity of students.
Q. Who will benefit from the study?
A. The results of the study will be relevant to everyone working with and for children; policy makers, teachers, parents, care-givers and, of course, young people themselves. For example, results from previous surveys have been used in developing health-related policies including the National Health Promotion Strategy. More examples can be found on our publications page.
Q. How will the results be used?
A. The findings are used to help in the development of policy for children and young people, including the National Health Strategy - Healthy Ireland, the National Youth Strategy, the National Drugs and Alcohol Strategies, the National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland and Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures - the national policy framework for children and young people. Data from HBSC Ireland have also been used in reports and strategies on child and adolescent health and wellbeing from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the European Commission and the OECD.
We provide data on request to public and voluntary bodies in Ireland, including the National Advisory Council on Drugs, the Health Research Board, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education and Skills, the Dental Health Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation, the National Youth Council of Ireland, Dáil na nÓg and Children and Young People’s Services Committees around the country. None of these reports ever mention the names of classes, schools or their location.
Q. Where can I get a copy of the survey results?
A. International reports can be found at http://www.hbsc.org/. HBSC Ireland survey results are available to download in a variety of formats including national reports, journal articles, books and book chapters, short reports, factsheets, other publications, theses and presentations. Further details and hard copies of the reports can be requested from the Health Promotion Research Centre, University of Galway by emailing: email@example.com.