This guide How to empower teens to manage their health, developed for health professionals, provides information on four important areas in teen lives: 1. healthy snacking, 2. physical activity, 3. sedentary behavior, and 4. screen time.
Problems and Purpose
Teens are going through many physical changes that need to be supported by healthy behavior and a balanced diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), teenagers establish patterns of behavior — related to diet, physical activity, substance use, and sexual activity — that can protect their health and the health of others around them, or put their health at risk now and in the future.
Exploring health issues in teens is the primary scope of the European project SEEDS that will be explained in the following pages.
One of your primary jobs is to provide medication and prevent diseases from spreading. But you are also required to educate others about prevention, cures and other related interventions. Guidance on living a healthy life is central to this goal.
This guide, developed with the project SEEDS, provides information on four important areas in teen lives: 1. healthy snacking, 2. physical activity, 3. sedentary behavior, and 4. screen time.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
SEEDS has been conducted with the citizen science approach involving teens together with researchers in all stages of the project. SEEDS (Science Engagement to Empower aDolescentS) is a science project by teenagers for teenagers. It aims to empower teens to live healthy lifestyles and to help them explore the importance and excitement of science. This is achieved with an approach called extreme citizen science, based on the participation of leader adolescents in all the research processes: 1. analysis of adolescents’ barriers and needs for conducting a healthy lifestyles, 2. designing a community-based public intervention for adolescents of low-socioeconomic areas and with potential stakeholders participation, 3. analysis of data 4. and dissemination to community. SEEDS is based in four countries, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Each country included schools and a professional partner. To assist with the overall project, the City of Rotterdam and European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) were involved. More here: seedsmakeathons.com/
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 101006251
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Adolescence is a great period to promote healthy lifestyles since young adults are sufficiently mature to understand the reasons behind behavioral choices and the long-term impact of the individual health and wellbeing.
As teens are often considered a hard-to-reach group, there can be a gap between programs offered and what is truly an inclusive approach to empower and engage youth in healthy lifestyles.
Through citizen science, SEEDS aims to engage adolescents in generating new knowledge whilst producing scientifically reliable results.
Methods and Tools Used
The project kicked off with four makeathons, brief and intensive experience where people from different background gather together to hack, build, tinker and create something new.
A group of ambassadors representing their peers were selected in the four countries participating in the project. During the makeathons the selected teen ambassadors met in the Greece, Spain, The Netherlands, and UK, with researchers and other stakeholders to define the main topics and shape the work.
Makeathons are creative, collaborative challenges in a short, predetermined amount of time that bring together people (aka makers) from different backgrounds to reflect on and tackle a single challenge together. The makers work in teams to freely create whatever they want from a preset theme or subject, which is revealed to participants at the last moment so that they have free rein to improvise. Everyone can interpret the theme in their own way, regarding any discipline or field of study. What’s important is that participants come together to create a project that is sustainable, unique, and innovative.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Although the general theme of the project was established, the results of the 4 makeathons were not defined in advance. The topics of the interventions to be carried out during the duration of the SEEDS project emerged from the creative process carried out by makeathons with the crucial contribution of the teens protagonists. Teens decided to focus on:
- healthy snacks
- physical activity
- sedentary behaviour.
The SEEDS makeathons were implemented in November – December 2021, in the four pilot countries (Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom).
After collecting all ideas, one or more interventions per pilot country were created. All interventions were carried out with the active contribution of the teens, both ambassadors and their peers. They are described on the following pages and can be an inspiration for other projects.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
- The plan for Greek schools started with the observation of the scarcity of sports equipment and the lack of variety of food offered and consumed by students. In the six months of the intervention, a double track effort was therefore organized. One dedicated to increasing available sports equipment, and one dedicated to healthier nutrition, especially for snacks consumed during breaks.
- In Spain the makeathons sparked a lot of innovative ideas, which were restructured into actions plans regarding physical activity and healthy snacks as primary outcomes, and decreasing screen time as a secondary outcome. Different types of activities were designed for each behavioral outcome. Interventions started with training sessions on the selected topics, one for parents and one for students. The training for students ended with a workshop focused on how to optimize their time by doing different free out-of-school activities. The impact was assessed by the participants themselves.
- In the Netherlands From the makeathon, various activities were designed for nutrition and physical activity. Students from two intervention schools along with diversified stakeholders were involved. The project groups consisted of ambassadors supported by a teacher from their school and were guided by the SEEDS team. All students were free to join both the physical activity and nutrition interventions. For all activities, the gender dimension was monitored. This intervention was jointly developed and managed by the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam and the City of Rotterdam.
- The UK team designed multi-purpose program to challenge three behaviors; screen time, eat healthy snacks and drinks, and physical activities. The frequency of these tasks was between one and five days per week throughout the six months of the intervention and were presented as progressive challenges for the participants.
Practical tools, SEEDS project, https://seedsmakeathons.com/category/practical-tools/
On citizen science
ECSA characteristics of citizen science, https://zenodo.org/record/3758555#.Ypn5_BNBzJ9
The ten principles of citizen science (available in 35 languages), https://ecsa.citizen-science.net/documents/
Veeckman, C., Talboom, S., Gijsel, L., Devoghel, H., Duerinckx, A. (2019). Communication in Citizen Science. A practical guide to communication and engagement in citizen science. SCIVIL, Leuven, Belgium. ISBN: 9789463965613
Extreme citizen science, https://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/research/research-centres/excites
CitieSHealth, Citizen science toolkit, https://citizensciencetoolkit.eu/
On adolescents and health
Healthy eating for teens, National Health System UK, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/healthy-eating-for-teens/
Healthy diet, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet
Adolescents Health, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/adolescent-health#tab=tab_1
Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/physical-activity-recommendations-5-17years.pdf
Health workforce, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/teams/health-workforce/health-professions-networks
Millen A.C., Chesson R. (200), Health services can be cool: partnership with adolescents in primary care, https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/17.4.305