Health Science Journal

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Important Strategies for Youth Centers to be Health-Promoting Settings

Ingela Fredriksson, Susanna Geidne and Charli Eriksson

Background: Adolescence is a time that offers many opportunities for good health. It is also when the foundations for future patterns of adult health are established. Leisure time is a significant part of young people’s lives, and is often spent together with peers, it could therefore be a crucial arena for helping adolescents develop their full potential and attain the best possible health in the transition to adulthood. Since many young people spend their leisure time at youth centers they can play an active role in health promotion and be a health-promoting setting. This study aims to explore different strategies at two NGO-driven youth centers in multicultural, socially deprived suburbs in Sweden, and to determine what factors are important for making the youth centers health-promoting settings.

Method and findings: The study includes data from seven individual interviews with staff and six group interviews with youth at two youth centers. The groups consisted of three to five members with different ages (13–17 years), ethnicities, experiences and number of years at the center, totally 26 young people. An inductive qualitative content analysis was performed to analyze the interviews. The two youth centers studied are located in suburbs of two top-ten (by population) cities in Sweden. Both suburbs are characterized by apartment blocks and a high proportion of people with immigrant backgrounds and lower socio- economic status. The results show that youth centers can be health-promoting settings when their strategies include some important factors, both in theory and in daily practice.

Conclusion: To be a health-promoting setting a youth center needs to be open and inclusive towards its target groups, foster supportive relationships, emphasize youth empowerment, and integrate family, school and community into its strategies.