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Evidence Re: Children’s Participation in Health & Development?

About our Rapid Shift

Over the past 30 years there has been increased research and literature documenting the benefits and best practice in the field of child and youth participation.

There has also been increased recognition in the children’s ability to act as agents of change. By agents of change we mean the way in which children can influence change in different social environments. The concept involves viewing children as competent social actors, able to influence the behaviours of their peers and wider community. By children we focus mostly on young adolescent age group (10-14 years) and the role that these children have in the family – as carers – particularly of the under 5s.

As a result, many Governments and organisations have been developing and implementing projects that support children and the community to influence health, nutrition and hygiene behaviours.

However, since the introduction of these types of projects that intend to support children and young people to influence behaviour change, there have not been many studies that have robustly evaluated the impact.

Aims and Approach for our Rapid Sift

Our rapid sift brings together the available information relating to the impact of enabling children to influence behaviour change in the field of health, nutrition and hygiene. The scope of this study has been limited to these three areas and only papers published between October 2005 and May 2016 were included in this review.

Readers must be aware that this is a small study – ten days in scope although we worked on it over 6 months. So we have not included detailed information on issues such as the quality of the children’s engagement with the projects or detailed information on the children involved in the study. These are themes, which could be identified in future research.

The information obtained through the study can help to:

  • Inform the work of Children for Health and in particular the PCAAN approach to nutrition education in Mozambique. Children for Health is the lead technical advisor to this programme. PCAAN is an acronym for Children’s Participation in Learning and Action for Nutrition;
  • Identify and understand current research on how children influence health behaviours with a view to shaping and improving our understanding and identify gaps in research; and
  • Identify promising qualitative methodologies that have been used, or could be used to evaluate the impact of children’s participation in specific health related projects, including PCAAN.
A storybook developed with teachers and children in Tsangano district, Mozambique as part of a government nutrition programme there.

We aim to explore what is known about:

  • The impact directly on children and young people’s health and hygiene behaviour;
  • The wider impact on family, peers, community and society i.e. impact on health services, reduction in number of days children don’t attend school due to illness;
  • The techniques, which enable children to support behaviour change; and
  • The evaluation methodology used to measure impact.

It is important to note that following a preliminary search of the literature; the research questions were broadened to include all material relating to children being supported to influence behaviour change.

Our rapid sift is the result of a one day workshop at the Children for Health office and 10 further days spent on:

  1. A structured search of the literature using key academic databases.
  2. Search terms used included;
    1. Children; child, young person
    2. Agents; influence
    3. Behaviour
    4. Change
    5. And health, or nutrition, or hygiene
  3. Discussions with keys informants, which we used to identify key work and ensure findings were interpreted correctly.
  4. Review and revisions by four experts in the field of child focussed programming, research and/or child participation.

For a copy of the Children for Health Rapid Sift please click here