A study of health related behaviour among school going adolescents in Lusaka, Zambia
Michelo, Charles Cheembo
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Age grouping in medicine assists in identifying risk groups, and adolescence is one such grouping. This study reported and assessed health related behavioral problems in School going adolescents in Lusaka, Zambia. The main areas assessed were recreation/exercise, oral - dental hygiene, substance abuse and sexuality.A cross sectional survey was conducted on a sample of 490 people aged 9-15 randomly selected using cluster sampling methods and data was collected using focus group discussion in the pilot and a structured questionnaire.This study revealed presence of bad health related behavior in respect of recreation/ exercise (38.8%), oral dental hygiene (78.4%), substance abuse-alcohol (47.9%) and risk sexual behavior (36.9%) and this was directly proportional to non-availability of health services in the study clusters (69.2%). In addition it was found that these bad health practices were strongly inter-related so much that presence of one often led to presence of another.The Majority of the respondents were found to reside in low-density areas, and this had a significant effect on the level of sporting activity. The higher the number of pupils were from low-density areas the less the amount of sporting in the school (P= 0.002).However the level of bad dental practice found was not affected by residential location, but by age (P=0.00) and sex (P=value 6.8x10''). The major contributory factor in dental hygiene was eating sweets between meals. One would expect adolescents from low-density areas to have more money for such things thereby causing bad dental practice, but this was not the case as residence insignificantly affected this practice.The striking finding was the presence of drug-related problems as well as bad sexual behavior. There were significant levels of alcohol use (47.9%), use of mandrax (4.3%), marijuana (6.8%) and unprescribed diazepam (12.9%) beginning as early as 10 years and the frequency had doubled by 11.0 years of age. Sadly at such a tender age, these young ones have tasted all brands of alcohol such as wines, variety of spirits, larger and opaque beer. Furthermore, these adolescents have had sexual relationships (36.9%) as early as 10 years of age and of these, only a few (10.1%) have used condom. They have not only avoided protective sex, but they also think that a condom is not useful (18.1%). It is therefore not surprising that sexually transmitted diseases can be found among them (6.8%).Such bad behavioral practices do not only suggest a situation of collapsed or collapsing social structures in the society, but they also suggest a presence of moral decay beginning at family level and showing up in schools, where school going adolescents are able to express themselves among peers. These findings show presence of a bad behavior beginning 10 years of age when most of these children are still trainable and the classroom provides such a forum for health education and other preventive strategies.Lastly but not the least these bad practices were evident as early as 10 years of age. It was therefore felt that primary preventive strategies aimed at reducing the prevailing bad behavioral practices should now be commenced in primary schools way before any child reaches the age of 10 years.In addition its strongly recommended that any such preventive strategies should be implemented on the basis of available legislation aimed at reducing disease burden nationally.
- Medicine