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In March 2021 AYPH hired two interns to work on the Key Data on Young People 2021 resource. As their internships came to an end Lucy Ross and Eva Whitaker reflected on their impact on the data and what they learned from working on the project.

The impact we have had as young people working on Key Data

As young people working on the Key Data on Young People (KDYP) 2021 publication, our voice has been consistently valued by the wider research team at AYPH. We have been invited to add topics to the conversation which we believe reflect some of the more contemporary health issues faced by young people.

For example, we believed it was necessary to extend the conversation around screen time and social media. As a result, KDYP 2021 includes data about internet safety, and the experiences of young people when using the internet. Particularly considering the Covid-19 pandemic, internet safety and digital inequalities have been a topic of focus.

We also believed it was important to collect data on levels of stress experienced by young people because of pressures from school, as well as trends in mental health and school performance. Alarmingly, over half of young people in Year 11 (age 15/16) feel “some” or “a lot” of school pressure across Scotland and Wales (HBSC Scotland, 2020; SHRN, 2021), and 30-50% of 15 year-olds feel “a lot” of pressure from schoolwork in England (HBSC England, 2020).

Following conversations amongst ourselves and our stakeholders, we have also included data on menstrual health and period poverty in KDYP 2021. To highlight the importance of the health issue, almost half of girls aged 14-21 in the UK have missed an entire day of school because of their period (PLAN International UK, 2017).

As well as broadening the narrative, we have contributed to the development of KDYP 2021 as young people by providing a perspective on how young people are likely to use the publication. For example, because of the belief that young people are more likely to focus on the charts rather than the text, the graphs in KDYP 21 have descriptive titles, making them as easy as possible to interpret. We have also taken extra care to create a range of graphs that look visually different to one another, to help with engagement.


The things we have learned as young people working on Key Data

Key Data on Young PeopleAs well as developing a stronger understanding about the health issues faced by young people in the UK, working on the Key Data on Young People (KDYP) 2021 publication has encouraged us to grow personally and professionally as young people. 

First, working on KDYP 2021 has taught us the importance of objectivity when reporting data. The way that data are presented can often affect interpretation, and it is important to keep that in mind when providing a narrative. Specifically, it is important to listen to the data and present the most accurate and transparent illustration, regardless of previous or expected narratives. For example, when researching inequalities in smoking rates among 11-15-year-olds, we found that there are no significant differences by index of multiple deprivation quintile. Whilst the finding contradicts previous narratives, positive news stories are equally valuable to present. Data are likely to change over time and it is important to present the figures objectively. 

Equally, working on KDYP 21 has developed our critical thinking skills. When the data appear to tell a particular story, we have learned the importance of challenging findings and delving deeper to improve our understanding. For example, when exploring sleeping patterns among young people, we found that as young people get older, they get less sleep at night. However, after further research and interesting conversations with AYPH’s Research Associate who is also a paediatrician, we found it important to note that some of the trend in sleep patterns is likely to be attributable to natural development in young people. 

We were also given the opportunity to interview professionals about how they use KDYP 21. This experience not only resulted in changes to the structure of the publication (such as separating abuse and trauma into its own section) but gave us the opportunity to develop new skills. We believe that most young people are not given the opportunity to develop interviewing techniques so early in their career, and felt like this opportunity gave us a safe space to learn how best to question others and keep control of the conversation. Similarly, the team at AYPH encouraged us to take part in team discussions about topics such as branding, safeguarding practices and events hosted by the charity. We were also given the opportunity to chair team meetings which has enabled us to gain skills in leadership, organisation and time keeping. We are appreciative that the team has given us time to work on these skills and excited to continue to use them on new projects when our internships come to an end.  

The AYPH team wants to add that we couldn’t have done Key Data without Lucy and Eva and suspect we learned more from them than vice versa!