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BMJ. Apr 22, 1995; 310(6986): 1029–1033.
PMCID: PMC2549428

Health and cancer prevention: knowledge and beliefs of children and young people.


OBJECTIVE--To collect information from children and young people about their knowledge of and attitudes towards cancer and their understanding of health and health related behaviours to inform future health promotion work. DESIGN--Questionnaire survey of 15-16 year olds, and interviews with play materials with 9-10 year old children. SETTING--Six inner city, suburban, and rural schools. SUBJECTS--226 children aged 15-16 years and 100 aged 9-10 years. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Knowledge about different types of cancer; beliefs about health; sources of information; quality of research data obtainable from young children about cancer and health. RESULTS--Both samples knew most about lung cancer, but there was also some knowledge of breast and skin cancer and leukaemia. Smoking, together with pollution and other environmental factors, were seen as the dominant causes of cancer. Environmental factors were mentioned more often by the inner city samples. Television and the media were the most important sources of information. Young people were more worried about unemployment than about ill health. More than half the young people did not describe their health as good, and most said they did not have a healthy lifestyle. Children were able to provide detailed information about their knowledge and understanding by using drawings as well as interviews. CONCLUSIONS--Children and young people possess considerable knowledge about cancer, especially about lung cancer and smoking, and show considerable awareness of predominant health education messages. Despite this knowledge, many lead less than healthy lifestyles. Health is not seen as the most important goal in life by many young people; the circumstances in which many children and young people live are not experienced as health promoting.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Iverson DC, Kolbe LJ. Evolution of the national disease prevention and health promotion strategy: establishing a role for the schools. J Sch Health. 1983 May;53(5):294–302. [PubMed]
  • Blaxter M. The causes of disease. Women talking. Soc Sci Med. 1983;17(2):59–69. [PubMed]

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