What is the connection over time between the living conditions of children in Västra Götaland and their health development? The Public Health Committee, Region Västra Götaland is searching for an answer to this question through collaborative research using a so-called cohort study that will continue for at least ten years and include a cohort of youths. The study is part of Västra Götaland’s action plan for increased social sustainability and health equity, in line with the Regional Council’s decision on 24 September 2013.
In March 2014 began a pilot study involving 200 students in 7th grade from four schools with different socio-economic status, all located in Gothenburg. The pilot study continues all throughout 2014 and is to be completed in the first part of 2015. With the consent of the young people and their guardians, they will be asked to complete a questionnaire about family, friends, school, degree of self-perceived stress and mental health, as well as go through a physical examination, including measurement of blood pressure, pulse, blood glucose, insulin and cholesterol.
The study will include an entire cohort
In the next step, the study will include an entire cohort of 7th graders in schools all over Västra Götaland, year 2015-2016. The study will extend over at least 10 years and the youth should be followed throughout the study. An especially important aspect of the study is the recruitment of young people who normally are not easily available in this type of study. This is to be able to draw conclusions about differences between socioeconomic groups and between different parts of Västra Götaland.
- To understand and prevent early mental and physical illness, it is necessary to follow individuals over time. Studies examining the association between socioeconomic status, psychosocial stress, birth and physical health is lacking, even internationally. Therefore we need a scientific basis to tailor prevention programs at the individual level as well as at school and community level, says Peter Friberg, Professor / Consultant at the Department of Clinical Physiology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Collaborate to develop new knowledge
Research shows that there are strong links between, for example, poverty and ill health but it does not have sufficient knowledge of why and in what ways the family's socioeconomic conditions affect children's health development.
- To develop the knowledge of how we can reduce health disparities, we need to link the experience-based knowledge with research and we must work together across organizations and professions - civil servants, politicians and researchers. With this study, we get the opportunity to do just that, says Elisabeth Rahmberg, Public Health Director, Region Västra Götaland.
Together towards social sustainability and health equity
In Västra Götaland, we have a generally good health, but the differences in health which exist between different groups are increasing. To reduce disparities in health actions are required to create preconditions for safe and satisfactory early-life conditions, increased participations in working life and aging with quality of life. On the 24 September 2013 the Regional Council adopted the document "Together towards Social Sustainability - Actions for health equity in Västra Götaland, Sweden" that had been developed in collaboration with a number of welfare stakeholders in Västra Götaland, and which aimed at creating these preconditions needed.
- Measures are required throughout the life cycle but of special importance for a long-term socially sustainable Västra Götaland are the early interventions. To create preconditions for all children to have a safe and good childhood where they can develop physically, mentally and socially. Therefore, we initiated this study on the link between young people's living conditions in Västra Götaland and their health development, says Jan Alexandersson (V), Chairman of the Public Health Committee, Region Västra Götaland.