Impact of school closures on the health and well-being of primary school children in Wales UK: a routine data linkage study using the HAPPEN Survey (2018–2020)

James, Michaela, Marchant, Emily, Defeyter, Greta, Woodside, Jayne and Brophy, Sinead (2021) Impact of school closures on the health and well-being of primary school children in Wales UK: a routine data linkage study using the HAPPEN Survey (2018–2020). BMJ Open, 11 (10). e051574. ISSN 2044-6055

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Objectives: This study aimed to explore the relationship between initial school closures and children’s health by comparing health and well-being outcomes collected during school closures (April–June 2020) via HAPPEN (the Health and Attainment of Pupils in a Primary Education Network) with data from the same period in 2019 and 2018 via the HAPPEN Survey.

Setting: The study was conducted online with 161 primary schools across Wales involved in the ‘HAPPEN At Home’ Survey.

Participants: Data were collected via the ‘HAPPEN At Home’ Survey capturing the typical health behaviours of children aged 8–11 years from 1333 participants across Wales. These data were compared with data in 2018 and 2019 also collected between April and June, from HAPPEN (2019 (n=1150) and 2018 (n=475)).

Primary and secondary outcome measures: Primary outcomes included validated measures of physical activity, screen time, diet and dental health, as well as well-being, competency and autonomy. Free school meal (FSM) status was used as a proxy for socioeconomic deprivation. Analyses were repeated stratifying by FSM.

Results: Comparing responses between April–June in 2020 (n=1068), 2019 (n=1150) and 2018 (n=475), there were improvements in physical activity levels, sleep time, happiness and general well-being for children during school closures compared with previous years. However, children on FSM ate fewer fruits and vegetables (21% less at five or more portions of fruits and vegetables (95% CI: 5.7% to 37%)) and had lower self-assessed school competence compared with 2019. Compared with those not on FSM, they also spent less time doing physical activity (13.03%, 95% CI: 3.3% to 21.7%) and consumed more takeaways (16.3%, 95% CI: 2% to 30%) during school closures. Conclusions: This study suggests that schools are important in reducing inequalities in physical health. The physical health (eg, physical activity and diet) of children eligible for FSM may be affected by prolonged school closures.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This work was supported by the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research (NCPHWR) funded by Health and Care Research Wales and Welsh Government. No financial disclosures were reported by the authors of this paper. The collaborations of the authors were made possible by the GENIUS network. GENIUS is supported by the UK Prevention Research Partnership, an initiative funded by UK Research and Innovation Councils, the Department of Health and Social Care (England) and the UK devolved administrations, and leading health research charities.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Public health, COVID-19, public health, community child health
Subjects: B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
L500 Social Work
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2021 11:23
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2021 17:00

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