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Perception of neighborhood environment and health risk behaviors in Prague¿s teenagers: a pilot study in a post-communist city

14 Oct 2014

Background:
A youths’ neighborhood can play an important role in their physical, health, and emotional development. The prevalence of health risk behavior (HRB) in Czech youth such as smoking, drug and alcohol use is the highest in Europe.AimTo analyze differences in HRB in youth residents within different types of Prague’s neighborhoods in relation to the perception of the built environment, quality of their school and home environments.Data and methodsThe data is based on the on-line survey among elementary school students aged between 14–15 years, which was administered in19 selected schools in Prague, during the months of October 2013 to March 2014. Respondents were asked their opinions on various issues related to their HRB, about their indoor and outdoor housing and school environments. The questionnaire was completed by 407 students. Factor analysis with a principal components extraction was applied to determine the underlying structure in the variables. A consequent field research was conducted to map the opportunity hot spots and critical places around the elementary schools.
Results:
Binge drinking has been reported mainly by the students living in the housing estates with blocks of flats. The most frequent occurrence of daily smokers was found in the neighborhoods of old city apartment houses. High prevalence of risky marijuana use almost in all the surveyed types of neighborhoods. The respondents were more critical in their evaluation of school characteristics. The neighborhoods critically evaluated by the students as regards the school outdoor environments were the older apartment houses in the historical centre and inner city, the school indoor environment was worst assessed within the housing estate neighborhoods.
Conclusions:
Our results suggest that perceptions of problems in both residential and school environment are associated with HRB. This fact makes this issue of a serious importance also from the policy point of view. Mainly the school surroundings have to be better managed by the local authorities responsible for the public space. This research thus forms part of the Sophie project aiming to find the most efficient policies that would tackle with the inequalities in the health and quality of life.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in International Journal of Health Geographics