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1.  Beverage consumption among European adolescents in the HELENA Study 
Background and Objective
Our objective was to describe the fluid and energy consumption of beverages in a large sample of European adolescents
We used data from 2,741 European adolescents residing in 8 countries participating in the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence Cross Sectional Study (HELENA-CSS). We averaged two 24-hour recalls, collected using the HELENA-dietary assessment tool. By gender and age subgroup (12.5–14.9 y and 15–17.5 y), we examined per capita and per consumer fluid (milliliters [mL]) and energy (kilojoules [kJ]) intake from beverages and percent consuming ten different beverage groups.
Mean beverage consumption was 1611 ml/d in boys and 1316 ml/d in girls. Energy intake from beverages was about 1966 kJ/d and 1289 kJ/d in European boys and girls respectively, with sugar-sweetened beverages (carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, including soft drinks, fruit drinks and powders/concentrates) contributing to daily energy intake more than other groups of beverages. Boys and older adolescents consumed the most amount of per capita total energy from beverages. Among all age and gender subgroups sugar-sweetened beverages, sweetened milk (including chocolate milk and flavored yogurt drinks all with added sugar), low-fat milk, and fruit juice provided the highest amount of per capita energy. Water was consumed by the largest percent of adolescents followed by sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, and sweetened milk. Among consumers, water provided the greatest fluid intake and sweetened milk accounted for the largest amount of energy intake followed by sugar-sweetened beverages. Patterns of energy intake from each beverage varied between countries.
European adolescents consume an average of 1455 ml/d of beverages, with the largest proportion of consumers and the largest fluid amount coming from water. Beverages provide 1609 kJ/d, of which 30.4%, 20.7%, and 18.1% comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, sweetened milk, and fruit juice respectively.
PMCID: PMC3392586  PMID: 21952695
adolescents; Europe; sugar-sweetened beverages; sweetened milk; fruit juice
2.  Dietary animal and plant protein intakes and their associations with obesity and cardio-metabolic indicators in European adolescents: the HELENA cross-sectional study 
Nutrition Journal  2015;14:10.
Previous studies suggest that dietary protein might play a beneficial role in combating obesity and its related chronic diseases. Total, animal and plant protein intakes and their associations with anthropometry and serum biomarkers in European adolescents using one standardised methodology across European countries are not well documented.
To evaluate total, animal and plant protein intakes in European adolescents stratified by gender and age, and to investigate their associations with cardio-metabolic indicators (anthropometry and biomarkers).
The current analysis included 1804 randomly selected adolescents participating in the HELENA study (conducted in 2006–2007) aged 12.5-17.5 y (47% males) who completed two non-consecutive computerised 24-h dietary recalls. Associations between animal and plant protein intakes, and anthropometry and serum biomarkers were examined with General linear Model multivariate analysis.
Average total protein intake exceeded the recommendations of World Health Organization and European Food Safety Authority. Mean total protein intake was 96 g/d (59% derived from animal protein). Total, animal and plant protein intakes (g/d) were significantly lower in females than in males and total and plant protein intakes were lower in younger participants (12.5-14.9 y). Protein intake was significantly lower in underweight subjects and higher in obese ones; the direction of the relationship was reversed after adjustments for body weight (g/(kg.d)). The inverse association of plant protein intakes was stronger with BMI z-score and body fat percentage (BF%) compared to animal protein intakes. Additionally, BMI and BF% were positively associated with energy percentage of animal protein.
This sample of European adolescents appeared to have adequate total protein intake. Our findings suggest that plant protein intakes may play a role in preventing obesity among European adolescents. Further longitudinal studies are needed to investigate the potential beneficial effects observed in this study in the prevention of obesity and related chronic diseases.
PMCID: PMC4334414  PMID: 25609179
Protein intake; Adolescence; Body composition; Biomarkers; HELENA study
3.  Reliability and validity of the Adolescent Stress Questionnaire in a sample of European adolescents - the HELENA study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:717.
Since stress is hypothesized to play a role in the etiology of obesity during adolescence, research on associations between adolescent stress and obesity-related parameters and behaviours is essential. Due to lack of a well-established recent stress checklist for use in European adolescents, the study investigated the reliability and validity of the Adolescent Stress Questionnaire (ASQ) for assessing perceived stress in European adolescents.
The ASQ was translated into the languages of the participating cities (Ghent, Stockholm, Vienna, Zaragoza, Pecs and Athens) and was implemented within the HELENA cross-sectional study. A total of 1140 European adolescents provided a valid ASQ, comprising 10 component scales, used for internal reliability (Cronbach α) and construct validity (confirmatory factor analysis or CFA). Contributions of socio-demographic (gender, age, pubertal stage, socio-economic status) characteristics to the ASQ score variances were investigated. Two-hundred adolescents also provided valid saliva samples for cortisol analysis to compare with the ASQ scores (criterion validity). Test-retest reliability was investigated using two ASQ assessments from 37 adolescents.
Cronbach α-values of the ASQ scales (0.57 to 0.88) demonstrated a moderate internal reliability of the ASQ, and intraclass correlation coefficients (0.45 to 0.84) established an insufficient test-retest reliability of the ASQ. The adolescents' gender (girls had higher stress scores than boys) and pubertal stage (those in a post-pubertal development had higher stress scores than others) significantly contributed to the variance in ASQ scores, while their age and socio-economic status did not. CFA results showed that the original scale construct fitted moderately with the data in our European adolescent population. Only in boys, four out of 10 ASQ scale scores were a significant positive predictor for baseline wake-up salivary cortisol, suggesting a rather poor criterion validity of the ASQ, especially in girls.
In our European adolescent sample, the ASQ had an acceptable internal reliability and construct validity and the adolescents' gender and pubertal stage systematically contributed to the ASQ variance, but its test-retest reliability and criterion validity were rather poor. Overall, the utility of the ASQ for assessing perceived stress in adolescents across Europe is uncertain and some aspects require further examination.
PMCID: PMC3188495  PMID: 21943341
4.  Relationship between self-reported dietary intake and physical activity levels among adolescents: The HELENA study 
Evidence suggests possible synergetic effects of multiple lifestyle behaviors on health risks like obesity and other health outcomes. Therefore it is important to investigate associations between dietary and physical activity behavior, the two most important lifestyle behaviors influencing our energy balance and body composition. The objective of the present study is to describe the relationship between energy, nutrient and food intake and the physical activity level among a large group of European adolescents.
The study comprised a total of 2176 adolescents (46.2% male) from ten European cities participating in the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) study. Dietary intake and physical activity were assessed using validated 24-h dietary recalls and self-reported questionnaires respectively. Analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) were used to compare the energy and nutrient intake and the food consumption between groups of adolescents with different physical activity levels (1st to 3rd tertile).
In both sexes no differences were found in energy intake between the levels of physical activity. The most active males showed a higher intake of polysaccharides, protein, water and vitamin C and a lower intake of saccharides compared to less active males. Females with the highest physical activity level consumed more polysaccharides compared to their least active peers. Male and female adolescents with the highest physical activity levels, consumed more fruit and milk products and less cheese compared to the least active adolescents. The most active males showed higher intakes of vegetables and meat, fish, eggs, meat substitutes and vegetarian products compared to the least active ones. The least active males reported the highest consumption of grain products and potatoes. Within the female group, significantly lower intakes of bread and cereal products and spreads were found for those reporting to spend most time in moderate to vigorous physical activity. The consumption of foods from the remaining food groups, did not differ between the physical activity levels in both sexes.
It can be concluded that dietary habits diverge between adolescents with different self-reported physical activity levels. For some food groups a difference in intake could be found, which were reflected in differences in some nutrient intakes. It can also be concluded that physically active adolescents are not always inclined to eat healthier diets than their less active peers.
PMCID: PMC3045277  PMID: 21294914
5.  Physical Activity Attenuates the Effect of Low Birth Weight on Insulin Resistance in Adolescents 
Diabetes  2011;60(9):2295-2299.
To examine whether physical activity influences the association between birth weight and insulin resistance in adolescents.
The study comprised adolescents who participated in two cross-sectional studies: the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence (HELENA) study (n = 520, mean age = 14.6 years) and the Swedish part of the European Youth Heart Study (EYHS) (n = 269, mean age = 15.6 years). Participants had valid data on birth weight (parental recall), BMI, sexual maturation, maternal education, breastfeeding, physical activity (accelerometry, counts/minute), fasting glucose, and insulin. Insulin resistance was assessed by homeostasis model assessment–insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). Maternal education level and breastfeeding duration were reported by the mothers.
There was a significant interaction of physical activity in the association between birth weight and HOMA-IR (logarithmically transformed) in both the HELENA study and the EYHS (P = 0.05 and P = 0.03, respectively), after adjusting for sex, age, sexual maturation, BMI, maternal education level, and breastfeeding duration. Stratified analyses by physical activity levels (below/above median) showed a borderline inverse association between birth weight and HOMA-IR in the low-active group (standardized β = −0.094, P = 0.09, and standardized β = −0.156, P = 0.06, for HELENA and EYHS, respectively), whereas no evidence of association was found in the high-active group (standardized β = −0.031, P = 0.62, and standardized β = 0.053, P = 0.55, for HELENA and EYHS, respectively).
Higher levels of physical activity may attenuate the adverse effects of low birth weight on insulin sensitivity in adolescents. More observational data, from larger and more powerful studies, are required to test these findings.
PMCID: PMC3161315  PMID: 21752955
6.  Sedentary behaviours and its association with bone mass in adolescents: the HELENA cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:971.
We aimed to examine whether time spent on different sedentary behaviours is associated with bone mineral content (BMC) in adolescents, after controlling for relevant confounders such as lean mass and objectively measured physical activity (PA), and if so, whether extra-curricular participation in osteogenic sports could have a role in this association.
Participants were 359 Spanish adolescents (12.5-17.5 yr, 178 boys,) from the HELENA-CSS (2006–07). Relationships of sedentary behaviours with bone variables were analysed by linear regression. The prevalence of low BMC (at least 1SD below the mean) and time spent on sedentary behaviours according to extracurricular sport participation was analysed by Chi-square tests.
In boys, the use of internet for non-study was negatively associated with whole body BMC after adjustment for lean mass and moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA). In girls, the time spent studying was negatively associated with femoral neck BMC. Additional adjustment for lean mass slightly reduced the negative association between time spent studying and femoral neck BMC. The additional adjustment for MVPA did not change the results at this site. The percentage of girls having low femoral neck BMC was significantly smaller in those participating in osteogenic sports (≥ 3 h/week) than in the rest, independently of the cut-off selected for the time spent studying.
The use of internet for non-study (in boys) and the time spent studying (in girls) are negatively associated with whole body and femoral neck BMC, respectively. In addition, at least 3 h/week of extra-curricular osteogenic sports may help to counteract the negative association of time spent studying on bone health in girls.
PMCID: PMC3508981  PMID: 23148760
Bone health; Sedentary behaviours; Adolescents; Physical activity and extra-curricular participation in sports
7.  Clustering of substance use and sexual risk behaviour in adolescence: analysis of two cohort studies 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000661.
The authors aimed to examine whether changes in health risk behaviour rates alter the relationships between behaviours during adolescence, by comparing clustering of risk behaviours at different time points.
Comparison of two cohort studies, the Twenty-07 Study (‘earlier cohort’, surveyed in 1987 and 1990) and the 11-16/16+ Study (‘later cohort’, surveyed 1999 and 2003).
Central Clydeside Conurbation around Glasgow City.
Young people who participated in the Twenty-07 and 11-16/16+ studies at ages 15 and 18–19.
Primary and secondary outcomes measures
The authors analysed data on risk behaviours in both early adolescence (started smoking prior to age 14, monthly drinking and ever used illicit drugs at age 15 and sexual intercourse prior to age 16) and late adolescence (age 18–19, current smoking, excessive drinking, ever used illicit drugs and multiple sexual partners) by gender and social class.
Drinking, illicit drug use and risky sexual behaviour (but not smoking) increased between the earlier and later cohort, especially among girls. The authors found strong associations between substance use and sexual risk behaviour during early and late adolescence, with few differences between cohorts, or by gender or social class. Adjusted ORs for associations between each substance and sexual risk behaviour were around 2.00. The only significant between-cohort difference was a stronger association between female early adolescent smoking and early sexual initiation in the later cohort. Also, relationships between illicit drug use and both early sexual initiation and multiple sexual partners in late adolescence were significantly stronger among girls than boys in the later cohort.
Despite changes in rates, relationships between adolescent risk behaviours remain strong, irrespective of gender and social class. This indicates a need for improved risk behaviour prevention in young people, perhaps through a holistic approach, that addresses the broad shared determinants of various risk behaviours.
Article summary
Article focus
Previous studies have reported clustering of risk behaviours during adolescence.
Prior studies have not examined whether changes in risk behaviour rates affects relationships between these risk behaviours.
We examined clustering in early and later adolescent risk behaviours to determine if clustering differed at two different time points, by gender and by socioeconomic status, the latter of which has also tended not to be addressed in previous studies.
Key messages
Despite changes in health risk behaviour rates, relationships between adolescent risk behaviours remain strong.
Relationships generally did not vary by gender or social class.
There is a need for improved risk behaviour prevention in young people, perhaps through a holistic approach that addresses the broad shared determinants of various risk behaviours.
Strengths and limitations of this study
We compared cohorts of young people from the same geographic area and life stage, surveyed using (near) identical questions, 13 years apart. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine time trends in associations between substance use and sexual behaviour.
We examined these associations in both early and late adolescence and by gender and social class, the latter of which has not been previously investigated.
Although we accounted for loss to follow-up in the 1999/2003 study via weighted analyses, we may not have fully compensated for differential loss to follow-up of adolescents with more ‘risky’ patterns of behaviour.
Questions on alcohol intake included a more detailed drinking grid in the 1999/2003 study, which possibly encouraging increased reporting in this later cohort, while use of interviewer-administered questionnaires may have led to under-reporting of behaviours.
PMCID: PMC3330258  PMID: 22318665
8.  Towards Universal Voluntary HIV Testing and Counselling: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Community-Based Approaches 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001496.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Amitabh Suthar and colleagues describe the evidence base for different HIV testing and counseling services provided outside of health facilities.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Effective national and global HIV responses require a significant expansion of HIV testing and counselling (HTC) to expand access to prevention and care. Facility-based HTC, while essential, is unlikely to meet national and global targets on its own. This article systematically reviews the evidence for community-based HTC.
Methods and Findings
PubMed was searched on 4 March 2013, clinical trial registries were searched on 3 September 2012, and Embase and the World Health Organization Global Index Medicus were searched on 10 April 2012 for studies including community-based HTC (i.e., HTC outside of health facilities). Randomised controlled trials, and observational studies were eligible if they included a community-based testing approach and reported one or more of the following outcomes: uptake, proportion receiving their first HIV test, CD4 value at diagnosis, linkage to care, HIV positivity rate, HTC coverage, HIV incidence, or cost per person tested (outcomes are defined fully in the text). The following community-based HTC approaches were reviewed: (1) door-to-door testing (systematically offering HTC to homes in a catchment area), (2) mobile testing for the general population (offering HTC via a mobile HTC service), (3) index testing (offering HTC to household members of people with HIV and persons who may have been exposed to HIV), (4) mobile testing for men who have sex with men, (5) mobile testing for people who inject drugs, (6) mobile testing for female sex workers, (7) mobile testing for adolescents, (8) self-testing, (9) workplace HTC, (10) church-based HTC, and (11) school-based HTC. The Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale and the Cochrane Collaboration's “risk of bias” tool were used to assess the risk of bias in studies with a comparator arm included in pooled estimates.
 117 studies, including 864,651 participants completing HTC, met the inclusion criteria. The percentage of people offered community-based HTC who accepted HTC was as follows: index testing, 88% of 12,052 participants; self-testing, 87% of 1,839 participants; mobile testing, 87% of 79,475 participants; door-to-door testing, 80% of 555,267 participants; workplace testing, 67% of 62,406 participants; and school-based testing, 62% of 2,593 participants. Mobile HTC uptake among key populations (men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, female sex workers, and adolescents) ranged from 9% to 100% (among 41,110 participants across studies), with heterogeneity related to how testing was offered. Community-based approaches increased HTC uptake (relative risk [RR] 10.65, 95% confidence interval [CI] 6.27–18.08), the proportion of first-time testers (RR 1.23, 95% CI 1.06–1.42), and the proportion of participants with CD4 counts above 350 cells/µl (RR 1.42, 95% CI 1.16–1.74), and obtained a lower positivity rate (RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.37–0.96), relative to facility-based approaches. 80% (95% CI 75%–85%) of 5,832 community-based HTC participants obtained a CD4 measurement following HIV diagnosis, and 73% (95% CI 61%–85%) of 527 community-based HTC participants initiated antiretroviral therapy following a CD4 measurement indicating eligibility. The data on linking participants without HIV to prevention services were limited. In low- and middle-income countries, the cost per person tested ranged from US$2–US$126. At the population level, community-based HTC increased HTC coverage (RR 7.07, 95% CI 3.52–14.22) and reduced HIV incidence (RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.73–1.02), although the incidence reduction lacked statistical significance. No studies reported any harm arising as a result of having been tested.
Community-based HTC achieved high rates of HTC uptake, reached people with high CD4 counts, and linked people to care. It also obtained a lower HIV positivity rate relative to facility-based approaches. Further research is needed to further improve acceptability of community-based HTC for key populations. HIV programmes should offer community-based HTC linked to prevention and care, in addition to facility-based HTC, to support increased access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment.
Review Registration
International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews CRD42012002554
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Three decades into the AIDS epidemic, about 34 million people (most living in resource-limited countries) are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Every year another 2.2 million people become infected with HIV, usually through unprotected sex with an infected partner, and about 1.7 million people die. Infection with HIV, which gradually destroys the CD4 lymphocytes and other immune system cells that provide protection from life-threatening infections, is usually diagnosed by looking for antibodies to HIV in the blood or saliva. Disease progression is subsequently monitored in HIV-positive individuals by counting the CD4 cells in their blood. Initiation of antiretroviral drug therapy—a combination of drugs that keeps HIV replication in check but that does not cure the infection—is recommended when an individual's CD4 count falls below 500 cells/µl of blood or when he or she develops signs of severe or advanced disease, such as unusual infections.
Why Was This Study Done?
As part of intensified efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS, United Nations member states recently set several HIV-related targets to be achieved by 2015, including reduced transmission of HIV and increased delivery of antiretroviral therapy. These targets can only be achieved if there is a large expansion in HIV testing and counseling (HTC) and increased access to HIV prevention and care services. The World Health Organization currently recommends that everyone attending a healthcare facility in regions where there is a generalized HIV epidemic (defined as when 1% or more of the general population is HIV-positive) should be offered HTC. However, many people rarely visit healthcare facilities, and others refuse “facility-based” HTC because they fear stigmatization and discrimination. Thus, facility-based HTC alone is unlikely to be sufficient to enable national and global HIV targets to be reached. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers evaluate the performance of community-based HTC approaches such as index testing (offering HTC to the sexual and injecting partners and household members of people with HIV), mobile testing (offering HTC through a service that visits shopping centers and other public facilities), and door-to-door testing (systematically offering HTC to homes in a catchment area). A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 117 studies (most undertaken in Africa and North America) involving 864,651 participants that evaluated community-based HTC approaches. Among these studies, the percentage of people offered community-based HTC who accepted it (HTC uptake) was 88% for index testing, 87% for self-testing, 80% for door-to-door testing, 67% for workplace testing, and 62% for school-based testing. Compared to facility-based approaches, community-based approaches increased the chances of an individual's CD4 count being above 350 cells/µl at diagnosis (an important observation because early diagnosis improves subsequent outcomes) but had a lower positivity rate, possibly because people with symptoms of HIV are more likely to visit healthcare facilities than healthy individuals. Importantly, 80% of participants in the community-based HTC studies had their CD4 count measured after HIV diagnosis, and 73% of the participants initiated antiretroviral therapy after their CD4 count fell below national eligibility criteria; both these observations suggest that community-based HTC successfully linked people to care. Finally, offering community-based HTC approaches in addition to facility-based approaches increased HTC coverage seven-fold at the population level.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that community-based HTC can achieve high HTC uptake rates and can reach HIV-positive individuals earlier, when they still have high CD4 counts. Importantly, they also suggest that the level of linkage to care of community-based HTC is similar to that of facility-based HTC. Although the lower positivity rate of community-based HTC approaches means that more people need to be tested with these approaches than with facility-based HTC to identify the same number of HIV-positive individuals, this downside of community-based HTC is likely to be offset by the earlier identification of HIV-positive individuals, which should improve life expectancy and reduce HIV transmission at the population level. Although further studies are needed to evaluate community-based HTC in other regions of the world, these findings suggest that offering community-based HTC in HIV programs in addition to facility-based testing should support the increased access to HIV prevention and care that is required for the intensification of HIV/AIDS elimination efforts.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on counseling and testing (in several languages)
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, on HIV testing, and on HIV transmission and testing (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including personal stories) about HIV and AIDS
The World AIDS Day Report 2012 provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV, including stories about getting a diagnosis
PMCID: PMC3742447  PMID: 23966838
9.  Adolescents' leisure activities, parental monitoring and cigarette smoking - a cross-sectional study 
Adolescent participation in leisure activities is developmentally beneficial, but certain activities may increase health compromising behaviours, such as tobacco smoking. A limited range of leisure activities has been studied, with little research on out-of-school settings where parental supervision is a potential protective factor. Tobacco smoking is an important, potentially modifiable health determinant, so understanding associations between adolescent leisure activities, parental monitoring, demographic factors and daily smoking may inform preventive strategies. These associations are reported for a New Zealand adolescent sample.
Randomly selected schools (n = 145) participated in the 2006 Youth In-depth Survey, a national, biennial study of Year 10 students (predominantly 14-15 years). School classes were randomly selected and students completed a self-report questionnaire in class time. Adjustment for clustering at the school level was included in all analyses. Since parental monitoring and demographic variables potentially confound relations between adolescent leisure activities and smoking, variables were screened before multivariable modelling. Given prior indications of demographic differences, gender and ethnic specific regression models were built.
Results and Discussion
Overall, 8.5% of the 3,161 students were daily smokers, including more females (10.5%) than males (6.5%). In gender and ethnic specific multivariate analysis of associations with daily smoking (adjusted for age, school socioeconomic decile rating, leisure activities and ethnicity or gender, respectively), parental monitoring exhibited a consistently protective, dose response effect, although less strongly among Māori. Attending a place of worship and going to the movies were protective for non-Māori, as was watching sports, whereas playing team sport was protective for all, except males. Attending a skate park was a risk factor for females and Māori which demonstrated a strong dose response effect.
There were significant differences in the risk of daily smoking across leisure activities by gender and ethnicity. This reinforces the need to be alert for, and respond to, gender and ethnic differences in the pattern of risk and protective factors. However, given the consistently protective, dose response effect of parental monitoring, our findings confirm that assisting oversight of adolescent leisure activities may be a key component in public health policy and prevention programmes.
PMCID: PMC3118374  PMID: 21645407
10.  Internet Use among Ugandan Adolescents: Implications for HIV Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e433.
The Internet is fast gaining recognition as a powerful, low-cost method to deliver health intervention and prevention programs to large numbers of young people across diverse geographic regions. The feasibility and accessibility of Internet-based health interventions in resource-limited settings, where cost-effective interventions are most needed, is unknown. To determine the utility of developing technology-based interventions in resource-limited settings, availability and patterns of usage of the Internet first need to be assessed.
Methods and Findings
The Uganda Media and You Survey was a cross-sectional survey of Internet use among adolescents (ages 12–18 years) in Mbarara, Uganda, a municipality mainly serving a rural population in sub-Saharan Africa. Participants were randomly selected among eligible students attending one of five participating secondary day and boarding schools in Mbarara, Uganda. Of a total of 538 students selected, 93% (500) participated.
Of the total respondents, 45% (223) reported ever having used the Internet, 78% (175) of whom reported going online in the previous week. As maternal education increased, so too did the odds of adolescent Internet use. Almost two in five respondents (38% [189]) reported already having used a computer or the Internet to search for health information. Over one-third (35% [173]) had used the computer or Internet to find information about HIV/AIDS, and 20% (102) had looked for sexual health information. Among Internet users, searching for HIV/AIDS information on a computer or online was significantly related to using the Internet weekly, emailing, visiting chat rooms, and playing online games. In contrast, going online at school was inversely related to looking for HIV/AIDS information via technology. If Internet access were free, 66% (330) reported that they would search for information about HIV/AIDS prevention online.
Both the desire to use, and the actual use of, the Internet to seek sexual health and HIV/AIDS information is high among secondary school students in Mbarara. The Internet may be a promising strategy to deliver low-cost HIV/AIDS risk reduction interventions in resource-limited settings with expanding Internet access.
A survey among 500 adolescent pupils in rural Uganda suggests widespread interest in online information about sexual health and HIV/AIDS. Over one-third of Internet users had already searched for relevant information online, and many of the others said they would like to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS online.
Editors' Summary
HIV/AIDS is a major health burden in sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda. Despite a recent reduction of the number of HIV-infected individuals, HIV transmission remains a problem among Ugandan adolescents. Recent surveys suggest that about half of sexually active adolescents do not consistently use condoms, and that young people are less knowledgeable about HIV than they were 15 years ago.
Why Was This Study Done?
The Internet has a number of characteristics that make it an attractive tool in health education and HIV prevention, especially for adolescents—including interactivity, privacy, the overlap between education and play, and the ability to individualize information based on an initial assessment of background conditions, interest, and knowledge. It is also thought that despite these advantages, the Internet's potential in resource-poor settings with higher HIV infection rates and limited access to other health care resources has not been explored much. This study was done to gain some initial insights on the desired and actual use of the Internet to seek sexual health and HIV/AIDS information among adolescents in Uganda.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They did a survey of 500 adolescent pupils randomly selected from five participating boarding schools in Mbarara, a small town in a rural part of Uganda. They asked three questions: To what extent are the adolescents exposed to computers and the Internet? Are they interested in accessing health information online? Who uses the Internet and how? Almost half of the participants said they had used the Internet at least once, and the majority said they had been online during the previous week. Most Internet users (82%) reported going online at school; 57% said they use Internet cafes, 17% access the Internet at home; and 11% at someone else's house. More than a third of all participants reported having used the Internet or computer to look up health information, and many had been looking for information on sexual health and HIV/AIDS. About two-thirds of the participants said that if Internet use were free, they would search for information on sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention. The researchers analyzed the responses further to identify the most influential factors in whether one of the Internet users would go online to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS. They found that those participants who used the Internet more often and those who engaged in online activities like chat rooms, games, and e-mail, were more likely to search for HIV/AIDS information. On the other hand, those who went online only at school were less likely to do so.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Approximately the same proportion—roughly one-third—of adolescents in a rural setting in Uganda reported having used the Internet to look up health-related information as of young people in the United States. Together with the result that an additional third said that they would go online to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS if Internet use was free, this study suggests that initiatives in Africa to improve online access for adolescents as well as to develop content tailored for young people in specific settings would make a difference.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Links page for adolescents and youth from HIV InSite at UCSF
Africa Initiative
HIV/AIDS education module from the US Public Broadcasting System
Lesson plan for “Using the Internet to Access Sexual Health Information” from the Information Institute of Syracuse
PMCID: PMC1630714  PMID: 17090211
11.  Causes of Acute Hospitalization in Adolescence: Burden and Spectrum of HIV-Related Morbidity in a Country with an Early-Onset and Severe HIV Epidemic: A Prospective Survey 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000178.
Rashida Ferrand and colleagues show that HIV infection is the commonest cause of hospitalization among adolescents in a high HIV prevalence setting.
Survival to older childhood with untreated, vertically acquired HIV infection, which was previously considered extremely unusual, is increasingly well described. However, the overall impact on adolescent health in settings with high HIV seroprevalence has not previously been investigated.
Methods and Findings
Adolescents (aged 10–18 y) systematically recruited from acute admissions to the two public hospitals in Harare, Zimbabwe, answered a questionnaire and underwent standard investigations including HIV testing, with consent. Pre-set case-definitions defined cause of admission and underlying chronic conditions. Participation was 94%. 139 (46%) of 301 participants were HIV-positive (median age of diagnosis 12 y: interquartile range [IQR] 11–14 y), median CD4 count = 151; IQR 57–328 cells/µl), but only four (1.3%) were herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) positive. Age (median 13 y: IQR 11–16 y) and sex (57% male) did not differ by HIV status, but HIV-infected participants were significantly more likely to be stunted (z-score<−2: 52% versus 23%, p<0.001), have pubertal delay (15% versus 2%, p<0.001), and be maternal orphans or have an HIV-infected mother (73% versus 17%, p<0.001). 69% of HIV-positive and 19% of HIV-negative admissions were for infections, most commonly tuberculosis and pneumonia. 84 (28%) participants had underlying heart, lung, or other chronic diseases. Case fatality rates were significantly higher for HIV-related admissions (22% versus 7%, p<0.001), and significantly associated with advanced HIV, pubertal immaturity, and chronic conditions.
HIV is the commonest cause of adolescent hospitalisation in Harare, mainly due to adult-spectrum opportunistic infections plus a high burden of chronic complications of paediatric HIV/AIDS. Low HSV-2 prevalence and high maternal orphanhood rates provide further evidence of long-term survival following mother-to-child transmission. Better recognition of this growing phenomenon is needed to promote earlier HIV diagnosis and care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since 1981, and more than 30 million people are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. HIV destroys the cells in the immune system that normally provide protection against disease-causing organisms. Consequently, people infected with HIV are susceptible to so-called opportunistic infections, including tuberculosis and pneumonia. HIV is most commonly spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner but another major route of transmission is mother-to-child (vertical transmission) during pregnancy or delivery or during breast feeding. Mother-to-child transmission can be prevented by giving antiviral drugs to HIV-positive mothers during their pregnancy and to their newborn children. But, although most mothers in developed countries have access to this intervention, fewer than half of HIV-positive mothers in low- and middle-income countries receive this treatment and, every year, nearly half a million children become infected with HIV.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is generally thought that HIV infections in infants progress rapidly and that half of the children who acquire HIV from their mothers will die before their second birthday if not treated with antiretroviral drugs. However, as the AIDS epidemic matures, more children are surviving to adolescence with untreated, vertically acquired HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, the region where most children with HIV/AIDS live. Little is known about the burden of HIV infection and its contribution to illness and death in adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa but this information is needed to help health care providers prepare for this new aspect of the AIDS epidemic. In this study, the researchers examine the causes of acute hospital admissions (admissions for conditions with a sudden onset and usually a short course) among adolescents in Zimbabwe, a country where the HIV epidemic started early and where one in seven adults is HIV-positive and more than 17,000 children are infected with HIV every year, mainly through vertical transmission.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 301 10–18-year olds who were admitted to each of the two public hospitals in Harare (Zimbabwe) for acute illnesses between September 2007 and April 2008. Each patient completed a questionnaire about themselves and their health and underwent standard investigations, including HIV testing. Nearly half the participants were HIV positive; about a quarter of these HIV-positive individuals only found out about their status during the study. HIV-positive participants were more likely to be stunted, to have pubertal delay, and to be maternal orphans or have an HIV-infected mother than HIV-negative participants. 69% of HIV-positive participants were admitted to hospital because of infections, often tuberculosis or pneumonia whereas only 19% of the HIV-negative participants were admitted for infections. More than a quarter of all the participants had underlying heart, lung, or other chronic conditions. Finally, 22% of the HIV-positive participants died while in hospital compared to only 7% of the HIV-negative participants. Factors that increased the risk of death among all the participants were advanced HIV infection, pubertal immaturity, and chronic conditions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that HIV infection is the commonest cause of acute adolescent admission to hospital in Harare (and probably elsewhere in Zimbabwe). Most of these admissions are due to opportunistic infections similar to those seen in HIV-positive adults and to long-term complications of having HIV/AIDS as an infant such as delayed puberty. Other findings indicate that most of the HIV-positive adolescents who participated in this study were infected via vertical transmission, which supports the idea that long-term survival after vertical infection is possible. Because the AIDS epidemic started early in Zimbabwe, there is likely to be a lag before adolescent survivors of vertical HIV transmission become common elsewhere. Nevertheless, all African countries and other places where HIV infection in adults is common need to recognize that the burden of HIV in their acutely unwell adolescents is likely to increase over the next few years. To deal with this emerging aspect of the AIDS epidemic, measures must be introduced to ensure early diagnosis of HIV in this previously neglected age group so that treatment can be started before HIV-positive adolescents become critically ill.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Glenda Gray
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of articles and other sources of information about the primary care of adolescents with HIV
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on the HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe, and on children, HIV, and AIDS (in English and Spanish)
UNICEF also has information about children and HIV and AIDS (in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2814826  PMID: 20126383
12.  Low Back Pain in Adolescents: A Comparison of Clinical Outcomes in Sports Participants and Nonparticipants 
Journal of Athletic Training  2010;45(1):61-66.
Back pain is common in adolescents. Participation in sports has been identified as a risk factor for the development of back pain in adolescents, but the influence of sports participation on treatment outcomes in adolescents has not been adequately examined.
To examine the clinical outcomes of rehabilitation for adolescents with low back pain (LBP) and to evaluate the influence of sports participation on outcomes.
Observational study.
Outpatient physical therapy clinics.
Patients or Other Participants:
Fifty-eight adolescents (age  =  15.40 ± 1.44 years; 56.90% female) with LBP referred for treatment. Twenty-three patients (39.66%) had developed back pain from sports participation.
Patients completed the Modified Oswestry Disability Questionnaire and numeric pain rating before and after treatment. Treatment duration and content were at the clinician's discretion. Adolescents were categorized as sports participants if the onset of back pain was linked to organized sports. Additional data collected included diagnostic imaging before referral, clinical characteristics, and medical diagnosis.
Main Outcome Measure(s):
Baseline characteristics were compared based on sports participation. The influence of sports participation on outcomes was examined using a repeated-measures analysis of covariance with the Oswestry and pain scores as dependent variables. The number of sessions and duration of care were compared using t tests.
Many adolescents with LBP receiving outpatient physical therapy treatment were involved in sports and cited sports participation as a causative factor for their LBP. Some differences in baseline characteristics and clinical treatment outcomes were noted between sports participants and nonparticipants. Sports participants were more likely to undergo magnetic resonance imaging before referral (P  =  .013), attended more sessions (mean difference  =  1.40, 95% confidence interval [CI]  =  0.21, 2.59, P  =  .022) over a longer duration (mean difference  =  12.44 days, 95% CI  =  1.28, 23.10, P  =  .024), and experienced less improvement in disability (mean Oswestry difference  =  6.66, 95% CI  =  0.53, 12.78, P  =  .048) than nonparticipants. Overall, the pattern of clinical outcomes in this sample of adolescents with LBP was similar to that of adults with LBP.
Adolescents with LBP due to sports participation received more treatment but experienced less improvement in disability than nonparticipants. This may indicate a worse prognosis for sports participants. Further research is required.
PMCID: PMC2808757  PMID: 20064050
spine; athletes; disability
13.  The Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe (SEYLE) Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT): methodological issues and participant characteristics 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:479.
Mental health problems and risk behaviours among young people are of great public health concern. Consequently, within the VII Framework Programme, the European Commission funded the Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe (SEYLE) project. This Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) was conducted in eleven European countries, with Sweden as the coordinating centre, and was designed to identify an effective way to promote mental health and reduce suicidality and risk taking behaviours among adolescents.
To describe the methodological and field procedures in the SEYLE RCT among adolescents, as well as to present the main characteristics of the recruited sample.
Analyses were conducted to determine: 1) representativeness of study sites compared to respective national data; 2) response rate of schools and pupils, drop-out rates from baseline to 3 and 12 month follow-up, 3) comparability of samples among the four Intervention Arms; 4) properties of the standard scales employed: Beck Depression Inventory, Second Edition (BDI-II), Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (Z-SAS), Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), World Health Organization Well-Being Scale (WHO-5).
Participants at baseline comprised 12,395 adolescents (M/F: 5,529/6,799; mean age=14.9±0.9) from Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. At the 3 and 12 months follow up, participation rates were 87.3% and 79.4%, respectively. Demographic characteristics of participating sites were found to be reasonably representative of their respective national population. Overall response rate of schools was 67.8%. All scales utilised in the study had good to very good internal reliability, as measured by Cronbach’s alpha (BDI-II: 0.864; Z-SAS: 0.805; SDQ: 0.740; WHO-5: 0.799).
SEYLE achieved its objective of recruiting a large representative sample of adolescents within participating European countries. Analysis of SEYLE data will shed light on the effectiveness of important interventions aimed at improving adolescent mental health and well-being, reducing risk-taking and self-destructive behaviour and preventing suicidality.
Trial registration
US National Institute of Health (NIH) clinical trial registry (NCT00906620) and the German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS00000214).
PMCID: PMC3665603  PMID: 23679917
SEYLE; Mental Health Promotion; Suicide prevention; Promotion; Well-being; Adolescents; Schools; RCT; Intervention; ProfScreen; QPR; Awareness
14.  Clustering patterns of physical activity, sedentary and dietary behavior among European adolescents: The HELENA study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:328.
Evidence suggests possible synergetic effects of multiple lifestyle behaviors on health risks like obesity and other health outcomes. A better insight in the clustering of those behaviors, could help to identify groups who are at risk in developing chronic diseases. This study examines the prevalence and clustering of physical activity, sedentary and dietary patterns among European adolescents and investigates if the identified clusters could be characterized by socio-demographic factors.
The study comprised a total of 2084 adolescents (45.6% male), from eight European cities participating in the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) study. Physical activity and sedentary behavior were measured using self-reported questionnaires and diet quality was assessed based on dietary recall. Based on the results of those three indices, cluster analyses were performed. To identify gender differences and associations with socio-demographic variables, chi-square tests were executed.
Five stable and meaningful clusters were found. Only 18% of the adolescents showed healthy and 21% unhealthy scores on all three included indices. Males were highly presented in the cluster with high levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and low quality diets. The clusters with low levels of MVPA and high quality diets comprised more female adolescents. Adolescents with low educated parents had diets of lower quality and spent more time in sedentary activities. In addition, the clusters with high levels of MVPA comprised more adolescents of the younger age category.
In order to develop effective primary prevention strategies, it would be important to consider multiple health indices when identifying high risk groups.
PMCID: PMC3112135  PMID: 21586158
15.  The global burden of headache in children and adolescents – developing a questionnaire and methodology for a global study 
Burden of headache has been assessed in adults in countries worldwide, and is high, but data for children and adolescents are sparse. The objectives of this study were o develop a questionnaire and methodology for the global estimation of burden of headache in children and adolescents, to test these in use and to present preliminary data.
We designed structured questionnaires for mediated-group self-administration in schools by children aged 6-11 years and adolescents aged 12-17 years. In two pilot studies, we offered the questionnaires to pupils in Vienna and Istanbul. We performed face-to-face interviews in a randomly selected subsample of 199 pupils to validate the headache diagnostic questions.
Data were collected from 1,202 pupils (mean 13.9 ± 2.4 years; 621 female, 581 male). The participation rate was 81.1% in Istanbul, 67.2% in Vienna. The questionnaire proved acceptable: ≤5% of participants disagreed partially or totally with its length, comprehensibility or simplicity. The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values ranged between 0.71 and 0.76 for migraine and between 0.61 and 0.85 for tension-type headache (TTH). Cronbach’s alpha was 0.83. The 1-year prevalence of headache was 89.3%, of migraine 39.3% and of TTH 37.9%. The prevalence of headache on ≥15 days/month was 4.5%. One fifth (20.7%) of pupils with headache lost ≥1 day of school during the preceding 4 weeks and nearly half (48.8%) reported ≥1 day when they could not do activities they had wanted to. The vast majority of pupils with headache experienced difficulties in coping with headache and in concentrating during headache. Quality of life was poorer in pupils with headache than in those without.
These pilot studies demonstrate the usefulness of the questionnaires and feasibility of the methodology for assessing the global burden of headache in children and adolescents, and predict substantial impact of headache in these age groups.
PMCID: PMC4273720  PMID: 25496532
Migraine; Tension-type headache; Burden of headache; Quality of life; Global campaign against headache
16.  Teenagers and Texting: Use of a Youth Ecological Momentary Assessment System in Trajectory Health Research With Latina Adolescents 
JMIR mHealth and uHealth  2014;2(1):e3.
Adolescent females send and receive more text messages than any others, with an average of 4050 texts a month. Despite this technological inroad among adolescents, few researchers are utilizing text messaging technology to collect real time, contextualized data. Temporal variables (ie, mood) collected regularly over a period of time could yield useful insights, particularly for evaluating health intervention outcomes. Use of text messaging technology has multiple benefits, including capacity of researchers to immediately act in response to texted information.
The objective of our study was to custom build a short messaging service (SMS) or text messaging assessment delivery system for use with adolescents. The Youth Ecological Momentary Assessment System (YEMAS) was developed to collect automated texted reports of daily activities, behaviors, and attitudes among adolescents, and to examine the feasibility of YEMAS. This system was created to collect and transfer real time data about individual- and social-level factors that influence physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.
YEMAS is a custom designed system that interfaces with a cloud-based communication system to automate scheduled delivery of survey questions via text messaging; we designed this university-based system to meet data security and management standards. This was a two-phase study that included development of YEMAS and a feasibility pilot with Latino adolescent females. Relative homogeneity of participants was desired for the feasibility pilot study; adolescent Latina youth were sought because they represent the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority group in the United States. Females were targeted because they demonstrate the highest rate of text messaging and were expected to be interested in participating. Phase I involved development of YEMAS and Phase II involved piloting of the system with Latina adolescents. Girls were eligible to participate if they were attending one of the participating high schools and self-identified as Latina. We contacted 96 adolescents; of these, 24 returned written parental consent forms, completed assent processes, and enrolled in the study.
YEMAS was collaboratively developed and implemented. Feasibility was established with Latina adolescents (N=24), who responded to four surveys daily for two two-week periods (four weeks total). Each survey had between 12 and 17 questions, with responses including yes/no, Likert scale, and open-ended options. Retention and compliance rates were high, with nearly 18,000 texts provided by the girls over the course of the pilot period.
Pilot results support the feasibility and value of YEMAS, an automated SMS-based text messaging data collection system positioned within a secure university environment. This approach capitalizes on immediate data transfer protocols and enables the documentation of participants’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in real time. Data are collected using mobile devices that are familiar to participants and nearly ubiquitous in developed countries.
PMCID: PMC4114422  PMID: 25098355
texting; data collection; intervention research; longitudinal; trajectory
17.  Study of Day, Month and Season Pedometer-Determined Variability of Physical Activity of High School Pupils in The Czech Republic 
Long-term day-to-day monitoring of physical activity (PA) has not been undertaken in adolescents despite PA declines rapidly during adolescence. This study monitored the school year-round pedometer-determined PA of pupils attending high school in the Czech Republic. We assessed their PA levels; appraised the school year-round variability of their PA; and, assessed the associations between their PA levels and weekdays/weekends; months; seasons; and physical education (PE) lessons at school. We observed the PA levels of 10 girls and 2 boys (aged 16.0 ± 0.7 years). Each pupil wore an unsealed pedometer (Omron HJ-105) on the right side of the waist continuously for one year, and recorded steps/day and daily behaviour (e.g. after-school PA, PE lesson) into an activity diary. In total, participants recorded step counts for 2,979 person- days (82.0% of a possible 3,628 person-days). We used the Missing Values Analysis EM function of SPSS to estimate step values that were missing from the dataset. The sample’s mean daily step count was 14,727 ± 6,612 steps/day, and repeated ANOVA showed differences in steps/day across the days of the week (p < 0.0001), months (p < 0.0001) and seasons (p < 0.0001). The mean number of steps/day for weekdays (15,733 ± 6,354) was higher (p < 0.0001) than weekends values (12,196 ± 6,574), and was higher for days with PE lesson (17,280 ± 5,988) than for days without PE lesson (15,569 ± 6,318) (p < 0.0001). The total contribution of PE class (90 minutes) to pupils’ daily PA was 10.0% additional steps per PE day. In conclusion, this study contributes to understanding the day-to-day PA variability of adolescent pupils across the school year. Across all months and seasons, pupils achieved notably more steps on weekdays than on weekends; and on PE days than on non-PE days. Research is required to assess these findings for school pupils in other countries.
Key pointsPedometer appears to be suitable for long-term monitoring of physical activity in adolescents.Day of the week, month and season are significant factors in pedometer-determined day-to-day variability of physical activity of adolescent pupils.Across all months and seasons, pupils achieved notably more steps on weekdays than on weekends, with Sunday being the least active day.Regular PE lessons contribute considerably to the total physical activity levels in adolescent pupils. The increase in steps/day on days with PE is relatively constant throughout the school year regardless of month, season and the content of PE lessons.
PMCID: PMC3761714  PMID: 24149645
Day-to-day variability; physical education; adolescents; school year; pedometer
18.  Prevalence and associated characteristics of recurrent non-specific low back pain in Zimbabwean adolescents: a cross-sectional study 
Until recently, non-specific low back pain (NSLBP) in adolescents was considered a rare phenomenon unlike in adults. The last two decades has shown an increasing amount of research highlighting the prevalence in this age group. Recent studies estimate lifetime prevalence at 7%-80%, point prevalence at 10%-15%, and prevalence of recurrent NSLBP at 13%-36%. In Zimbabwe, there is dearth of literature on the magnitude of the problem in adolescents. Therefore, the aims of the study were to determine the prevalence (lifetime, point, recurrent) and the nature of recurrent NSLBP reported by adolescents in secondary schools.
A cross-sectional study was conducted using a questionnaire. A cluster sample of 544 adolescents (age 13–19 years) randomly derived from government schools participated in the study. Lifetime prevalence, point prevalence and prevalence of recurrent NSLBP were presented as percentages of the total population. Exact 95% confidence intervals were given. Chi-square test was used to evaluate the effect of gender and age on prevalence.
The students’ response rate was 97.8%. The lifetime prevalence was 42.9% [95% confidence interval = 40.8-44.6] with no significant difference between sexes [χ2 (1) =0.006, p = 0.94]. However, NSLBP peaked earlier in female students (13.9 years) than in male students (15 years) [t (226) = 4.21, p < 0.001]. About 10% of the adolescents reported having an episode of NSLBP on the day of the survey. However, female students (14.2%) were more affected on the day [χ2 (1) =11.2, p < 0.001]. Twenty-nine percent of the adolescents experienced recurrent NSLBP with 78% experiencing at least three episodes in the last 12 months. On average, recurrent NSLBP reported was mild in intensity (4.8 ± 1.9) on the visual analogue scale (VAS) and short in duration. Recurrent NSLBP was associated with sciatica in 20.9% of adolescents.
NSLBP is a common occurrence among Zimbabwean adolescents in secondary schools. It increases with chronological age and is recurrent in the minority of adolescents. Although much of the symptomatology may be considered benign, the existence of recurrent NSLBP in adolescents before their work-life begins should be a concern to health professionals, teachers and parents.
PMCID: PMC4246475  PMID: 25406690
Adolescents; Lifetime prevalence; Non-specific low back pain; Point prevalence; Recurrent non-specific low back pain
19.  Current smoking and secondhand smoke exposure and depression among Korean adolescents: analysis of a national cross-sectional survey 
BMJ Open  2014;4(2):e003734.
To examine the association between cigarette smoke exposure and depression among Korean adolescents using the seventh Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey (KYRBWS).
Cross-sectional study.
A nationally representative sample of middle and high school students across South Korea.
75 643 eligible participants across the country.
Primary outcome measures
Current smoking, secondhand smoke exposure and depression.
Data were analysed from a nationally representative survey of 75 643 participants (37 873 men and 37 770 women). Data were gathered on extensive information including current smoking, secondhand smoke exposure and depression in adolescence. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to estimate the association between current smoking, secondhand smoke exposure and depression in Korean adolescents.
Among those who had never smoked, secondhand smoke exposure was positively associated with depression in male and female adolescents in a dose–response relation (OR 1.27, OR 1.52 in males; OR 1.25, OR 1.72 in females). Similar associations were observed among currently smoking men and women in a dose–response manner (OR 1.29, OR 1.55 in males; OR 1.22, OR 1.41 in females). These significant trends were consistently observed even after adjustments.
We suggested that current smoking and secondhand smoke exposure were positively associated with depression in male and female adolescents. Efforts to encourage no smoking and no secondhand smoke exposure will be established for adolescents.
PMCID: PMC3918992  PMID: 24503297
Epidemiology; Public Health; Preventive Medicine; Mental Health
20.  Association between Class III Obesity (BMI of 40–59 kg/m2) and Mortality: A Pooled Analysis of 20 Prospective Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001673.
In a pooled analysis of 20 prospective studies, Cari Kitahara and colleagues find that class III obesity (BMI of 40–59) is associated with excess rates of total mortality, particularly due to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
The prevalence of class III obesity (body mass index [BMI]≥40 kg/m2) has increased dramatically in several countries and currently affects 6% of adults in the US, with uncertain impact on the risks of illness and death. Using data from a large pooled study, we evaluated the risk of death, overall and due to a wide range of causes, and years of life expectancy lost associated with class III obesity.
Methods and Findings
In a pooled analysis of 20 prospective studies from the United States, Sweden, and Australia, we estimated sex- and age-adjusted total and cause-specific mortality rates (deaths per 100,000 persons per year) and multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for adults, aged 19–83 y at baseline, classified as obese class III (BMI 40.0–59.9 kg/m2) compared with those classified as normal weight (BMI 18.5–24.9 kg/m2). Participants reporting ever smoking cigarettes or a history of chronic disease (heart disease, cancer, stroke, or emphysema) on baseline questionnaires were excluded. Among 9,564 class III obesity participants, mortality rates were 856.0 in men and 663.0 in women during the study period (1976–2009). Among 304,011 normal-weight participants, rates were 346.7 and 280.5 in men and women, respectively. Deaths from heart disease contributed largely to the excess rates in the class III obesity group (rate differences = 238.9 and 132.8 in men and women, respectively), followed by deaths from cancer (rate differences = 36.7 and 62.3 in men and women, respectively) and diabetes (rate differences = 51.2 and 29.2 in men and women, respectively). Within the class III obesity range, multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for total deaths and deaths due to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, nephritis/nephrotic syndrome/nephrosis, chronic lower respiratory disease, and influenza/pneumonia increased with increasing BMI. Compared with normal-weight BMI, a BMI of 40–44.9, 45–49.9, 50–54.9, and 55–59.9 kg/m2 was associated with an estimated 6.5 (95% CI: 5.7–7.3), 8.9 (95% CI: 7.4–10.4), 9.8 (95% CI: 7.4–12.2), and 13.7 (95% CI: 10.5–16.9) y of life lost. A limitation was that BMI was mainly ascertained by self-report.
Class III obesity is associated with substantially elevated rates of total mortality, with most of the excess deaths due to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and major reductions in life expectancy compared with normal weight.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The number of obese people (individuals with an excessive amount of body fat) is increasing rapidly in many countries. Worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, more than a third of all adults are now overweight or obese. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI, an indicator of body fat calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared) of more than 30 kg/m2 (a 183-cm [6-ft] tall man who weighs more than 100 kg [221 lbs] is obese). Compared to people with a healthy weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2), overweight and obese individuals (who have a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 kg/m2 and a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more, respectively) have an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, and tend to die younger. Because people become unhealthily fat by consuming food and drink that contains more energy (kilocalories) than they need for their daily activities, obesity can be prevented or treated by eating less food and by increasing physical activity.
Why Was This Study Done?
Class III obesity (extreme, or morbid, obesity), which is defined as a BMI of more than 40 kg/m2, is emerging as a major public health problem in several high-income countries. In the US, for example, 6% of adults are now morbidly obese. Because extreme obesity used to be relatively uncommon, little is known about the burden of disease, including total and cause-specific mortality (death) rates, among individuals with class III obesity. Before we can prevent and treat class III obesity effectively, we need a better understanding of the health risks associated with this condition. In this pooled analysis of prospective cohort studies, the researchers evaluate the risk of total and cause-specific death and the years of life lost associated with class III obesity. A pooled analysis analyzes the data from several studies as if the data came from one large study; prospective cohort studies record the characteristics of a group of participants at baseline and follow them to see which individuals develop a specific condition.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers included 20 prospective (mainly US) cohort studies from the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium (a partnership that studies cancer by undertaking large-scale collaborations) in their pooled analysis. After excluding individuals who had ever smoked and people with a history of chronic disease, the analysis included 9,564 adults who were classified as class III obese based on self-reported height and weight at baseline and 304,011 normal-weight adults. Among the participants with class III obesity, mortality rates (deaths per 100,000 persons per year) during the 30-year study period were 856.0 and 663.0 in men and women, respectively, whereas the mortality rates among normal-weight men and women were 346.7 and 280.5, respectively. Heart disease was the major contributor to the excess death rate among individuals with class III obesity, followed by cancer and diabetes. Statistical analyses of the pooled data indicate that the risk of all-cause death and death due to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and several other diseases increased with increasing BMI. Finally, compared with having a normal weight, having a BMI between 40 and 59 kg/m2 resulted in an estimated loss of 6.5 to 13.7 years of life.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that class III obesity is associated with a substantially increased rate of death. Notably, this death rate increase is similar to the increase associated with smoking among normal-weight people. The findings also suggest that heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are responsible for most of the excess deaths among people with class III obesity and that having class III obesity results in major reductions in life expectancy. Importantly, the number of years of life lost continues to increase for BMI values above 50 kg/m2, and beyond this point, the loss of life expectancy exceeds that associated with smoking among normal-weight people. The accuracy of these findings is limited by the use of self-reported height and weight measurements to calculate BMI and by the use of BMI as the sole measure of obesity. Moreover, these findings may not be generalizable to all populations. Nevertheless, these findings highlight the need to develop more effective interventions to combat the growing public health problem of class III obesity.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of overweight and obesity (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information on obesity (in several languages); Malri's story describes the health risks faced by an obese child
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about obesity, including a personal story about losing weight
The Global Burden of Disease Study website provides the latest details about global obesity trends
The US Department of Agriculture's website provides a personal healthy eating plan; the Weight-Control Information Network is an information service provided for the general public and health professionals by the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other sources of information on obesity (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4087039  PMID: 25003901
21.  High prevalence of daily and multi-site pain – a cross-sectional population-based study among 3000 Danish adolescents 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:191.
Daily pain and multi-site pain are both associated with reduction in work ability and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among adults. However, no population-based studies have yet investigated the prevalence of daily and multi-site pain among adolescents and how these are associated with respondent characteristics. The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of self-reported daily and multi-site pain among adolescents aged 12–19 years and associations of almost daily pain and multi-site pain with respondent characteristics (sex, age, body mass index, HRQoL and sports participation).
A population-based cross-sectional study was conducted among 4,007 adolescents aged 12–19 years in Denmark. Adolescents answered an online questionnaire during physical education lessons. The questionnaire contained a mannequin divided into 12 regions on which the respondents indicated their current pain sites and pain frequency (rarely, monthly, weekly, more than once per week, almost daily pain), characteristics, sports participation and HRQoL measured by the EuroQoL 5D. Multivariate regression was used to calculate the odds ratio for the association between almost daily pain, multi-site pain and respondent characteristics.
The response rate was 73.7%. A total of 2,953 adolescents (62% females) answered the questionnaire. 33.3% reported multi-site pain (pain in >1 region) while 19.8% reported almost daily pain. 61% reported current pain in at least one region with knee and back pain being the most common sites. Female sex (OR: 1.35-1.44) and a high level of sports participation (OR: 1.51-2.09) were associated with increased odds of having almost daily pain and multi-site pain. Better EQ-5D score was associated with decreased odds of having almost daily pain or multi-site pain (OR: 0.92-0.94).
In this population-based cohort of school-attending Danish adolescents, nearly two out of three reported current pain and, on average, one out of three reported pain in more than one body region. Female sex, and high level of sports participation were associated with increased odds of having almost daily pain and multi-site pain. The study highlights an important health issue that calls for investigations to improve our understanding of adolescent pain and our capacity to prevent and treat this condition.
PMCID: PMC3840664  PMID: 24252440
Adolescents; Pain; Cohort study; Paediatrics; Pain
22.  Alcohol consumption and binge drinking in adolescents: comparison of different migration backgrounds and rural vs. urban residence - a representative study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:84.
Binge drinking is a constant problem behavior in adolescents across Europe. Epidemiological investigations have been reported. However, epidemiological data on alcohol consumption of adolescents with different migration backgrounds are rare. Furthermore representative data on rural-urban comparison concerning alcohol consumption and binge drinking are lacking. The aims of the study are the investigation of alcohol consumption patterns with respect to a) urban-rural differences and b) differences according to migration background.
In the years 2007/2008, a representative written survey of N = 44,610 students in the 9th. grade of different school types in Germany was carried out (net sample). The return rate of questionnaires was 88% regarding all students whose teachers respectively school directors had agreed to participate in the study. Weighting factors were specified and used to make up for regional and school-type specific differences in return rates. 27.4% of the adolescents surveyed have a migration background, whereby the Turkish culture is the largest group followed by adolescents who emigrated from former Soviet Union states. The sample includes seven large cities (over 500,000 inhabitants) (12.2%), independent smaller cities ("urban districts") (19.0%) and rural areas ("rural districts") (68.8%).
Life-time prevalence for alcohol consumption differs significantly between rural (93.7%) and urban areas (86.6% large cities; 89.1% smaller cities) with a higher prevalence in rural areas. The same accounts for 12-month prevalence for alcohol consumption. 57.3% of the rural, re-spectively 45.9% of the urban adolescents engaged in binge drinking in the 4 weeks prior to the survey. Students with migration background of the former Soviet Union showed mainly drinking behavior similar to that of German adolescents. Adolescents with Turkish roots had engaged in binge drinking in the last four weeks less frequently than adolescents of German descent (23.6% vs. 57.4%). However, in those adolescents who consumed alcohol in the last 4 weeks, binge drinking is very prominent across the cultural backgrounds.
Binge drinking is a common problem behavior in German adolescents. Obviously adolescents with rural residence have fewer alternatives for engaging in interesting leisure activities than adolescents living in cities. This might be one reason for the more problematic consumption patterns there. Common expectations concerning drinking behavior of adolescents of certain cultural backgrounds ('migrants with Russian background drink more'/'migrants from Arabic respectively Oriental-Islamic countries drink less') are only partly affirmed. Possibly, the degree of acculturation to the permissive German alcohol culture plays a role here.
PMCID: PMC3045949  PMID: 21299841
23.  Low back pain in childhood and adolescence: assessment of sports activities 
European Spine Journal  2010;20(1):94-99.
A cross-sectional study that targeted a total of 43,630 pupils in Niigata City, Japan was performed. The objective of the study was to evaluate the association between sports activities and low back pain (LBP) in childhood and adolescence in Japan. Regarding risk factors of LBP, a large number of studies have been conducted that have examined gender differences, height and weight, body mass index, sports time, differences in lifestyle, family history, and mental factors; however, no definitive conclusion has yet been made. A questionnaire survey was conducted using 43,630 pupils, including all elementary school pupils from the fourth to sixth grade (21,893 pupils) and all junior high pupils from the first to third year (21,737 pupils) in Niigata City (population of 785,067). 26,766 pupils who were determined to have valid responses (valid response rate 61.3%) were analyzed. Among the 26,766 pupils with valid responses, 2,591 (9.7%) had LBP at the time of the survey, and 8,588 (32.1%) had a history of LBP. The pupils were divided between those who did not participate in sports activities except the physical education in school (No sports group: 5,486, 20.5%) and those who participated in sports activities (Sports group: 21,280, 79.5%), and the difference in lifetime prevalence between No sports group and Sports group was examined. The odds ratio for LBP according to sports activity was calculated by multiple logistic regression analysis adjusted for gender, age, and body mass index. In addition, the severity of LBP was divided into three levels (Level 1: no limitation in any activity, Level 2: necessary to refrain from participating in sports and physical activities, and Level 3: necessary to be absent from school), and Levels 2 and 3 were defined as severe LBP; the severity was compared between No sports group and Sports group and in each sport’s items. Moreover, in Sports group, the amount of time spent participating in sports activities were divided into three groups (Group 1: less than 6 h per week, Group 2: 6–12 h per week, and Group 3: 12.1 h per week or more), and the dose–response between the amount of time spent participating in sports activities and the occurrence of LBP were compared. In No sports group, 21.3% experienced a history of LBP; in Sports group, 34.9% experienced LBP (P < 0.001). In comparison to No sports group, the odds ratio was significantly higher for Sports group (1.57), and also significantly higher for most of the sports items. The severity of LBP was significantly higher in Sports group (20.1 vs. 3.2%, P < 0.001). The amount of time spent participating in sports activities averaged 9.8 h per week, and a history of LBP significantly increased in the group which spent a longer time participating in sports activities (odds ratio 1.43 in Group 3). These findings suggest that sports activity is possible risk factors for the occurrence of LBP, and it might increase the risk for LBP in childhood and adolescence.
PMCID: PMC3036027  PMID: 20582557
Low back pain; Childhood; Adolescence; Sports activity; Epidemiology
24.  The Uptake and Accuracy of Oral Kits for HIV Self-Testing in High HIV Prevalence Setting: A Cross-Sectional Feasibility Study in Blantyre, Malawi 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(10):e1001102.
Augustine Choko and colleagues assess the uptake and acceptability of home-based supervised oral HIV self-testing in Malawi, demonstrating the feasibility of this approach in a high-prevalence, low-income environment.
Although HIV testing and counseling (HTC) uptake has increased dramatically in Africa, facility-based services are unlikely to ever meet ongoing need to the full. A major constraint in scaling up community and home-based HTC services is the unacceptability of receiving HTC from a provider known personally to prospective clients. We investigated the potential of supervised oral HIV self-testing from this perspective.
Methods and Findings
Adult members of 60 households and 72 members of community peer groups in urban Blantyre, Malawi, were selected using population-weighted random cluster sampling. Participants were offered self-testing plus confirmatory HTC (parallel testing with two rapid finger-prick blood tests), standard HTC alone, or no testing. 283 (95.6%) of 298 selected adults participated, including 136 (48.0%) men. 175 (61.8%) had previously tested (19 known HIV positive), although only 64 (21.5%) within the last year. HIV prevalence was 18.5%. Among 260 (91.9%) who opted to self-test after brief demonstration and illustrated instructions, accuracy was 99.2% (two false negatives). Although 98.5% rated the test “not hard at all to do,” 10.0% made minor procedural errors, and 10.0% required extra help. Most participants indicated willingness to accept self-test kits, but not HTC, from a neighbor (acceptability 94.5% versus 46.8%, p = 0.001).
Oral supervised self-testing was highly acceptable and accurate, although minor errors and need for supervisory support were common. This novel option has potential for high uptake at local community level if it can be supervised and safely linked to counseling and care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
According to the World Health Organization, despite the dramatic increase in the acceptability of HIV testing, more than 60% of people living with HIV do not know their status—a factor that is seriously hampering the global response to the HIV epidemic. The inconvenience and cost involved in visiting services in addition to a general aversion to visiting health facilities appear to be major barriers. Home-based HIV-testing services bypass these obstacles and are being adopted as national policy in a number of countries. However, given the tension between confidentiality and convenience, many people do not want to be counseled and tested by someone they know well, thus creating logistical difficulties and added costs to the provision of home-based testing services.
Why Was This Study Done?
Self-testing in private has considerable potential to contribute to first-time and repeat HIV testing but raises a number of issues, such as accuracy, the potential for adverse psychological reactions in the absence of face-to-face counseling, and the difficulty in organizing subsequent links to HIV/AIDS care. Self-testing has been used for over a decade in the US, but given the need to further scale up HIV testing and counseling in Africa, and to encourage regular repeat testing, the researchers conducted a mixed quantitative and qualitative study of self-testing for HIV using oral test kits to test whether supervised oral self-testing could yield accurate results. The researchers also wanted to explore reasons for accepting self-testing and respondents' preferences for HIV testing.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted their study in four community health worker catchment areas in three high-density residential suburbs of Blantyre, Malawi. Between March and July 2010, the researchers randomly selected two groups of participants from within these catchment areas and all adults were then invited to participate in interview and optional HIV testing and counseling carried out in their home. Participants were offered the choice between self-test for HIV followed by standard voluntary counseling and testing, standard voluntary counseling and testing only, and no HIV testing or counseling. Pre-and post-test counseling was provided to all participants and after self-testing, a counselor reread the self-test kit, completed a checklist of potential errors and confirmed the result using two rapid HIV test kits run in parallel from a finger-prick blood specimen. All participants testing positive were referred to the nearest primary health center.
All 260 participants who consented to voluntary counseling and testing also opted to self-test, with the remaining 23 (8.1%) choosing not to test. HIV prevalence was 18.5% (48 of 260) and HIV prevalence among participants who had previously tested HIV-negative or not tested at all was 12.0% (29 of 241 participants) meaning that less than half of HIV-infected participants were previously diagnosed, and just over half of undiagnosed HIV infections were in individuals who had previously tested HIV negative. The researchers found self-testing to be highly accurate, with clear and concordant results for 256 (99.2%) of 258 participants with both self-test and blood results. Overall sensitivity for self-test self-read was 97.9% with specificity of 100%. At exit interview, 256 (98.5%) of participants rated self-testing as “very easy” to do but additional help was requested by 26 (10%) of self test participants and procedural errors were identified for 26 participants (10%). Importantly, self-testing was the preferred option for future HIV tests for 56.4% of participants and the most common choice for both men and women.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study show that self-testing for HIV (after a brief demonstration and illustrated instructions) is highly accurate and is widely accepted by the community, indicating that there is strong community readiness to adopt self-testing alongside other HIV counseling and testing strategies in high HIV prevalence settings in urban Africa. Self-testing may prove especially valuable for encouraging regular repeat testing, couple testing, and first-time testing in otherwise hard-to-reach groups such as men and older individuals. Finally, given the accuracy achieved and strong preferences around future testing, further exploration of self-testing options could help to make progress towards meeting universal access goals.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Walensky and Bassett
Recently published WHO Guidelines explain the principles and processes of adapting HIV guidelines into national programs
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control's initiative Act against AIDS has some user-friendly information on the different types of HIV tests available
A WHO document discusses existing practices and surrounding issues related with HIV self-testing among health workers in sub-Saharan Africa
PMCID: PMC3186813  PMID: 21990966
25.  Methods and representativeness of a European survey in children and adolescents: the KIDSCREEN study 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:182.
The objective of the present study was to compare three different sampling and questionnaire administration methods used in the international KIDSCREEN study in terms of participation, response rates, and external validity.
Children and adolescents aged 8–18 years were surveyed in 13 European countries using either telephone sampling and mail administration, random sampling of school listings followed by classroom or mail administration, or multistage random sampling of communities and households with self-administration of the survey materials at home. Cooperation, completion, and response rates were compared across countries and survey methods. Data on non-respondents was collected in 8 countries. The population fraction (PF, respondents in each sex-age, or educational level category, divided by the population in the same category from Eurostat census data) and population fraction ratio (PFR, ratio of PF) and their corresponding 95% confidence intervals were used to analyze differences by country between the KIDSCREEN samples and a reference Eurostat population.
Response rates by country ranged from 18.9% to 91.2%. Response rates were highest in the school-based surveys (69.0%–91.2%). Sample proportions by age and gender were similar to the reference Eurostat population in most countries, although boys and adolescents were slightly underrepresented (PFR <1). Parents in lower educational categories were less likely to participate (PFR <1 in 5 countries). Parents in higher educational categories were overrepresented when the school and household sampling strategies were used (PFR = 1.78–2.97).
School-based sampling achieved the highest overall response rates but also produced slightly more biased samples than the other methods. The results suggest that the samples were sufficiently representative to provide reference population values for the KIDSCREEN instrument.
PMCID: PMC1976616  PMID: 17655756

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