Measuring the wellbeing of young people- NPC’s Dan Corry

Today we have a guest blog from Dan Corry, the Chief Executive of NPC reflecting on the measurement of young people’s wellbeing.
Our pioneer case study looks at the  NPC measure in more depth

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Dan Corry, Chief Executive NPC

DanMany of the charities we work with at NPC are trying in different ways to improve the wellbeing of one group or other. But perhaps nowhere is it more important than in thinking about children. Well-being is strongly connected to concepts like resilience, self esteem and self worth, qualities that if present can lead to a fulfilling life whatever the knock backs. Their absence can make for a very difficult future.

The general concept of well-being has enjoyed political backing at the highest level. Yet despite experts agreeing that young people’s school achievement is linked to their well-being. and the efforts of charities like the Children’s Society, we are still frustratingly short of finding an effective way to measure and monitor well-being among children, and to giving it the prominence in policy-making it deserves.

Ofsted have not helped in this. Since 2011 they have shifted their focus towards ‘academic excellence’ and increasingly away from what the Secretary of State disregarded as ‘peripherals’. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has started to measure adult well-being, but is only scoping how to apply this process to children.

Here at NPC we have tried to fill this space by creating something that is easy to use for charities and others, and is academically rigorous . We launched our own Well-being Measure in 2011, after three years developing and piloting the content. Adapting years of work by researchers and academics, it uses a simple online questionnaire to assess the well-being of 11-16 year-olds under eight criteria: self-esteem; emotional well-being; resilience; satisfaction with friends, family, community and school; and life satisfaction.

This means taking an entirely subjective approach, with young people asked to record how they feel about aspects of their lives. This contrasts with ONS proposals, for example, which would focus only on objective measures like sports participation and health. The ideal would be to combine the two—but it should be noted that there has been increasing recognition of the value of subjective approaches in recent years.

Since 2011, our Well-being Measure has been used by more than 50 charities, schools and local authorities, typically to measure the well-being of children both before and after an activity or intervention. This gives some sense of the impact that activity has had on their lives—and in the last three years, the Measure has helped us learn more about the well-being of around 7,000 young people.

Analysing this data, some of the results paint a reassuring picture of children’s lives. Family and friends play an important role. Very large percentages respond positively to statements about them: for example, 90% agreed ‘my friends are great’, 93% ‘I have a lot of fun with my friends, 86% ‘my parents treat me fairly’.

But at the other end of the scale, the greatest dissatisfaction is linked to local community and anxiety. Only 48% agreed that ‘there are lots of fun things to do where I lived’, while 35% children said they ‘worried a lot’ and 24% agreed ‘I am nervous or tense’. Analysis of the data also suggests some alarming fall-offs in well-being for girls in their teenage years, perhaps due to the pressures posed through new technology and abuse or coercion through social media.

We are continuing to develop the Well-being Measure and apply it in new settings. Since last year we have been working with the London Mayor’s Fund to measure change among young people involved in their Be the Best you can Be! programme. It is also being adapted for use with the Tri-Borough London authorities—Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea—so that it can work with children with special needs. (edited to add this is now available).

Measuring well-being is a process which probably never finishes. It’ll always need adaptations and tweaks along the way, so that we can catch as much high-quality, useable data as possible. But at a time when the connections between happiness, achievement and prosperity are under discussion, NPC is proud to have started taking those steps.

Talking about wellbeing – Does your organisation have public dialogue expertise?

Wellbeing is about people and what matters to us.  The What Works Centre for Wellbeing are looking forward to continue the dialogue  and  hearing from the public about what wellbeing means to them and their ideas for how policies could be designed to support wellbeing.

Watch the video from the most recent public dialogues on wellbeing Sciencewise

A generous grant from BIS through the Sciencewise programme has made the project possible and we are now inviting bids from organisations with expertise in conducting public dialogues. During the spring and summer, we will be bringing together members of the public and policy makers to discuss what really matters to wellbeing and how we can take that into account across a range of policy areas.

Public dialogues Ewen-blog-DSCF3352-620x322Does your organisation have pubilc dialogue expertise?

Yes? Have a look at the Invitation to Tender and submit a bid by 9th of March (10:00 am).

If you’ve got an idea for a policy issue to include get in touch (whatworkswellbeingdevelopment@phe.gov.uk).

Follow the blog to hear more about the project.

Community wellbeing

Here at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, we think communities are really important to improving wellbeing,  they’re the focus of one of our programmes of evidence.
kfenton blog

Public Health England has today launched a guide to  community centred approaches to health and wellbeing.

 

Pkfphoto-e1379332487234-147x150rofessor Kevin Fenton , the Public Health England National Director for Health and Wellbeing  blogged about why communities matter to health.

 

Our pioneer this week reflects the community approach to improving wellbeing, Well London who’s vision is : A world city of empowered local communities, who have the skills and confidence to take control of and improve their individual and collective health and well-being.

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Finally, a reminder that the deadline for applications to become one of our trustees is the 16th Feb at 8am.

Wellbeing evidence around the globe – Nils Fietje WHO Regional Office for Europe

Nils-photoCulture and Health: how the study of cultural dynamics is finding its way into well-being discussions at WHO.

Culture is making a comeback. After years of having remained at the margins of national and international policy discussions, the term is re-emerging as a powerful, affirmative concept. Particularly in relation to health, the importance of cultural values, behaviours, or assumptions is getting some much needed attention. Like, for inst ance, in this concept note, published by the United Nations Development Group as part of its report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which highlights the significant contribution cultural dynamics can make in improving people’s health. Or in this UCL/Lancet Commission Report which claims that the neglect of culture is the single biggest obstacle to developing equitable healthcare.

The comeback of culture hasn’t gone unnoticed by WHO, leading to the launch of a project at the WHO Regional Office for Europe that is trying to investigate the impact of culture on health in a more systematic way. Anchored in Health 2020, WHO’s European policy for health and well-being, the project’s first initiative is to tackle the issue of measuring and reporting on well-being. In 2012, the European Member States mandated the Regional Office to keep an eye on the well-being of its populations. As a result, five core objective well-being indicators and one core subjective indicator were selected for inclusion in the Health 2020 monitoring framework.

Of these, the subjective well-being indicator (life-satisfaction), is the most interesting, but also the most challenging. It’s at the heart of what WHO can say about well-being. And yet it doesn’t capture the soul of what well-being really means across a region that’s as culturally diverse as WHO’s Europe. From Iceland, across the central Asian republics, to the furthest reaches of the Russian Federation, the WHO European Region combines within one administrative entity an enormous variety of beliefs, values, and traditions

To help WHO think through the cultural determinants of well-being, the Regional Office convened an expert group meeting in January of this year. The group comprised 21 experts from a variety of disciplinary and professional backgrounds, including epidemiologists, statisticians, and public health experts, but also academics from cultural studies, history, philosophy, anthropology, geography, and cultural psychology.

From a measurement perspective, the well-known caveats about (for instance) cultural bias, language barriers, or contextual effects were mentioned in relation to subjective well-being. Although a lot of work has been done comparing collectivists versus individualist cultures, our experts agreed that more research was needed before the cross-cultural comparability of subjective well-being measures is firmly established. Particularly within the European Region, they pointed out, comparative research was almost totally lacking.

How then can WHO actually say something meaningful about “being well” in Europe?

One of the interesting recommendations the experL0058624 Wooden geomantic compass and perpetual calendar, Chinese. Plt group made, was to encourage WHO to consider using other forms of evidence from a wider array of disciplinary perspectives in order to supplement its regional report on well-being. A lot of rich health information can be gathered about the well-being of groups, communities and even nations, by (for example) systematically analysing historical records, anthropological observations, or other forms of cultural outputs. However, one must first overcome the preconception that his kind of information is too “soft” for the public health sphere. Instead, the focus needs to be on validity – as it would be with more conventional forms of data.

Taking advantage of a more multidisciplinary approach when WHO communicates about well-being – one that benefits from the methodologies employed by historians, anthropologists and other cultural commentators – might have several advantages.

First, such an approach could allow for more compelling, and more textured well-being narratives, especially where developing and implementing costly, country specific well-being surveys is not an option. This is crucially important to the Regional Office, because European Member States have already expressed a concern about the current burden of reporting. It’s a burden that should not be unnecessarily increased by international agencies.

Second, the use of more culturally specific sources of evidence (gathered from, for instance, traditions and rituals) can help give a voice to marginalised communities (such as Roma), whose health experiences are often fundamentally underpinned by cultural attitudes and beliefs and whose well-being isn’t captured by national or global polls.

And finally, an integrated, multidisciplinary approach, one which is open to insights from the human and wider social sciences, can help to encourage a more balanced discussion about well-being. Working between disciplines exposes the system of values in which academics operate and encourages reflexivity. The kind of reflexivity that allows us to understand, for instance, how all our attention on well-being (and happiness) is producing its own cultural dynamics. Dynamics that might themselves have negative side-effects.

As a small post script, a culture centred approach to thinking and communicating about well-being isn’t exactly new. But the kind of work that exists tends to make very specific arguments about the well-being of very specific groups of people (like cancer patients in the NHS). And it isn’t really speaking to policy makers yet, either. What’s missing from these studies is scale and scope. The scale to construct larger narratives about well-being that transcend local or community boundaries; and the scope to make this research relevant within the public health policy arena. We believe that WHO and its Health 2020 policy can help to change this.

Nils Fietje

Research Officer

Division of Information, Evidence, Research and Innovation

WHO Regional Office for Europe

Nils Fietje is a staff member of the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The author alone is responsible for the content and writing of this piece, which does not necessarily represent the decisions, policy or views of WHO.

Time to Talk Day 5 February 2015

5 ways to wellbeing postcardsConnect, Take Notice  and Keep Learning are 3 of the 5 ways to Wellbeing, today’s post combines the three.

Today is Time to Talk Day lead by the Time to Change campaign urging people to break the silence that surrounds mental health by having a 5 minute conversation

TimetoTalk

  • Having a mental health problem is hard enough but sometimes the isolation and stigma can make it even worse.
  • Talking about mental health doesn’t need to be difficult and can make a big difference. #TimetoTalk

This  BIG blog post from the BIG Lottery is focused on the challenges faced by projects working with people suffering from mental health issues.

 

There is just over a week left for applications to become one of our Trustees. The deadline is 16th Feb.

 

Our Pioneer case study shares the borough-wide approach of Lambeth and Southwark’s Wellbeing programme.

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