The Well-being of Adolescents in Vulnerable Environments (WAVE) Study
The WAVE Study is a two-phase research study designed to understand the factors that facilitate and hinder disadvantaged adolescents obtaining the health information and services needed to secure good health.
The study is being led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health working with the Center for Adolescent Health and the Urban Health Institute and is part of AstraZeneca’s global community investment initiative, the Young Health Programme.
The two-phase study is taking place in Baltimore (USA), Shanghai (China), Johannesburg (South Africa), New Delhi (India), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Ibadan (Nigeria). The site in Ibadan is funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute – the other sites are funded by AstraZeneca’s Young Health Programme.
The WAVE study is the first of its kind to focus on very disadvantaged urban adolescents and their health across the world. Much research has been done on easier-to-reach adolescents through schools and traditional family units, but to date there is limited data available on young people who don’t necessarily go to school or live in a typical home environment. Transformations in the world, which include changes in the global economy, education, family formation, and technology, are altering societies in every region, and in turn, are reshaping the contexts of adolescents’ lives. What is unknown is the extent to which these changes, regions and gender differentially impact young people’s health and their ability to obtain the resources they need to maintain health.
The objectives of the study are to:
Describe the health status of adolescents in very economically distressed communities within the six cities, particularly in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, mental health, substance abuse and physical safety
Identify the factors influencing adolescents health within each city and across the sites.
Findings from Phase 1
There was striking agreement in what adolescents across the sites perceived as their top health concerns. Among females, sexual and reproductive health problems were primary health challenges, whereas among males, tobacco, drug, and alcohol consumption was of highest concern, which often resulted into acts of violence. Among both males and females, personal safety was a major concern, with adolescents from Baltimore and Johannesburg feeling not safe even within their own homes. Factors perceived to influence health the most were the physical environment, which was characterized by inadequate sanitation and over-crowded buildings, and the social environment, which varied in influence across sites. Adolescents who were most vulnerable (those who had the least amount of social support) were also the least likely to know of where to access help or services.
The second phase of the research builds on the qualitative findings and includes interviewing representative samples of about 400 youth in each of the six locations. An innovative sampling approach, respondent driven sampling, ensures that adolescents who do not have stable homes are included.
Implications for Policy and Programmes
The findings from this study can be used by programme administrators and officials to understand better the health priorities of youth and to improve resources for severely challenged adolescents by incorporating their perspectives.
This site has been developed by the Young Health Programme to provide organisations who work with young people access to the materials and resources developed as part of the programme. These materials have been developed by the YHP partner organisations and their local affiliates. Where the content has been developed by a specific organisation or is intended for a specific location, this is marked clearly on the relevant document