'Cuida-te' Programme - taking good care of youth health


Promotion and prevention among young people has been one of the overarching aims of the “Cuida-te”, a health programme of the Portuguese Institute on Sports and Youth, created in 2008 and dedicated to minimize the likelihood of non-communicable diseases, by promoting health education, health literacy, early detection, counselling and referral to young people, ultimately leading to more meaningful and productive lives. This programme was originally set up with three essential concerns:-Awareness raising on youth health and healthy lifestyles; -Preventive intervention on addictive behaviours; -Counselling on sexual and reproductive health.

Likewise to most approaches at the time, this programme has predominantly focused on warning and informing young people of the consequences of risky behaviour and/or informing them of healthier and safer lifestyles, complementary to competences development to avoid risks. Despite the Portuguese Institute on Sports and Youth has consistently been committed to ensuring that young people have a voice in identifying their health needs, in planning and delivering solutions, and in innovating and experimenting to advance practice, its former intervention model, “Cuida-te”, fails to take into account the active role of cognitive functions, which calls for other dimensions that complement the more traditional approaches. On the other hand, environmental prevention interventions underline the importance of limiting exposure to risky behaviour opportunities, targeting the automatic system of behaviour.

A renovation process of the programme was undertaken with the purpose of addressing recommendations emerging from recent literature reviews, which points to:

-Dramatic increases in socioeconomic inequality in many domains of adolescent health and overlaps with unequal distribution of income. -A need of competencies and expertise on prevention principles, theories and practice among those who develop prevention interventions, namely trained and/or specialized professionals. -Prevention interventions should form part of a coherent long-term prevention plan, monitored on an ongoing basis allowing for necessary adjustments. -Prevention delivered should be based on scientific evidence as an investment in the well-being of young people.

Hence, this paper proposes a renovation of the former model, taking into account recent literature and also the view of stakeholders, youth professionals, health professionals, public health service providers and policy makers that were invited to comment, discuss and review a pre-editing version.

Key adjustments were put forward: -Coherence, matching the results of local needs assessment with intervention mechanisms; -Adequate training to strategic players and professionals; -Coverage of a range of community settings (youth associations, families, schools, universities, workplace, entertainment venues, etc.); Need to involve university to support the implementation of the programme and its monitoring and evaluation.

Conclusions: Global and wide intervention programmes serve better the purpose of promoting healthy lifestyles and to prevent risky behaviours among young people; -Due to neurodevelopmental context of young people, they are particularly susceptible to the influence of popular culture and their actions are not simply a result of health illiteracy, which entails prevention programmes to go beyond information/warning and skill/competence development approaches.


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