An Assets Based Approach to Health Promotion with Young People in England
Fenton, Catherine Meghan
Introduction The health of young people in England is an area of concern, nationally and internationally. This has prompted a range of strategies and policies to try to address how health may be improved. However, there has not necessarily been agreement as to how this should best be done. There appeared a case for consideration of alternative or additional approaches to health promotion. Aim This research aimed to construct an assets based model to shape health promotion practice and policy for young people in England. Methods A narrative synthesis was undertaken and highlighted the lack of information regarding which assets might be important for young people’s health in England. This programme of research was developed from those initial findings. Quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to gain a more comprehensive understanding than could be gained by individual methods. This mixed methods research involved secondary data analysis of the Health Behaviours in School Aged Children (HBSC) dataset using regression analysis to identify the assets associated with life satisfaction for English youth. Focus groups and interviews were employed to capture the views of young people regarding assets, health and health promotion. Findings were discussed with practitioners to gather their ideas as to the potential of an assets approach. The different research methods were drawn together by the underpinning theoretical frameworks provided by Assets models and the New Social Studies of Childhood. Results Two themes emerged from the narrative synthesis providing suggestions for health promotion; the ecological approach acknowledged the range of settings that young people inhabit, whilst the holistic approach recognised the interrelationship between risks and assets. Critical discussion consolidated the research findings to propose a list of health promoting assets for young people in England; constructive relationships, safety, positive attributes, independence and opportunity. These findings were brought together into a descriptive model to guide health promotion policy and practice (Figure 1). Constructive relationships appeared as a core asset, providing a foundation from which young people could develop. Having positive attributes was also fundamental to this process, which emphasises the importance of promoting physical and mental health simultaneously. Safety was the third core asset identified through the research strands. There was variation between young people regarding the definition of, and priority assigned to, the additional assets of independence and opportunity. Figure 1: Assets model to shape health promotion with young people Conclusion This research contributes to previous work in the field of assets models by providing new insight into the relatively little researched area of assets approaches to health promotion with young people in England. The complex interrelationships between mental health and assets have been highlighted; providing challenge to frameworks that focus on the quantitative accumulation of assets. The inclusion of young people’s perspectives provided new depth to previous theoretical models and interpretation of quantitative findings. The variation highlighted within this research raises implications for tackling health inequalities. This assets based model provides a framework to shape professional practice and policy thus providing the potential to improve young people’s health and wellbeing in a sustainable and non-stigmatising way.