Congratulations to the Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, Professor Susan Sawyer, who has just published Australia’s first textbook on ‘Youth Health and Adolescent Medicine’, edited with colleagues Dr Melissa Kang, Associate Professor Rachel Skinner, Associate Professor Lena Sanci.
“The editors are excited that this field has come of age in Australia to the extent that a textbook is both needed and can be born of the enormous breadth and depth of expertise that resides among our colleagues”, she said.
The book is in 4 parts:
- Adolescents and young people
- Clinical approaches and youth friendly care
- Common and important health issues in adolescence
- Complex, challenging and ill-defined disorders in adolescence.
Three of the 4 editors are based at the Centre (Professor Sawyer) or trained at the Centre for Adolescent Health (Rachel Skinner and Lena Sanci). Many current and past Centre staff and students contributed chapters, including John Toumbourou, Craig Olsson, Ian Williams, Bill Hallam, Sonia Grover, Michele Yeo, Yvonne Bonomo, Mick Creati, Kathy Rowe, Andrew Court and Andrew Kennedy.
While spanning both population health and clinical perspectives, it will be most relevant for practicing clinicians, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, allied health professionals and students form a wide range of disciplines.
The book can be ordered from IP communications and costs $80.
Congratulations to Carolyn Coffey on the completion of her PhD.
One of the major health risks for young people to emerge in recent decades relates to illicit drug use with cannabis being the most commonly used in Australia. Yet there has been remarkably little work undertaken into quantifying the health risk associated with cannabis. This thesis is a narrative based on twelve papers published in international peer reviewed journals arising from the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study, which have contributed to our understanding of the natural history of adolescent cannabis use and the adverse consequences that may arise from its use in adolescence and young adulthood. Dr Coffey was intimately involved with this ongoing population-based cohort study which commenced in 1992 with 2000 fourteen-year-olds who were interviewed periodically until they were aged 29 years in 2010. This unique data set allowed her to track the transitions in behaviour through adolescence into adulthood and the longer term impact of cannabis use measured. The overall conclusion must be that cannabis use in adolescence is not harmless and, for some, has quite grave consequences in adulthood. The findings have already done much to shift community attitudes and policy responses.
My PhD thesis examined the effect of peer influence on the development of adolescent alcohol use. Peer influence is one of the most salient and consistent predictors for drinking behaviour among young people. It is important to understand the relative contribution of the processes of peer influence (whereby adolescents transition to alcohol use in the presence of alcohol-using peers) and peer selection (whereby those using alcohol initially in the absence of alcohol-using friends then subsequently seek out drinking peers) so that appropriate prevention strategies can be applied at different stages in adolescence. Using cross-national, prospective data from state-representative samples of students in Grades 5, 7 and 9 in Victoria, Australia and Washington State, USA from the International Youth DevelopmentStudy, I used Latent Transition Analysis to identify a range of transition groups with adolescents moving in and out of their latent peer classes over time and explored predictors associated with these transitions. The findings provide the firmest estimates to date of the prevalence of peer influenced alcohol use transitions and demonstrate age and country variations.
I am currently studying the Masters in Adolescent Health and Welfare. When I commenced my studies I was a Senior Constable working in the Security Event Co-ordination Unit at the Victorian Police Academy. This course has had a dramatic impact on my career. I am now working as a Police Youth Resource Officer. This is a role I could not have obtained without studying this course because the positions are scarce and when they become available they are fiercely contested.
The wonderful thing about my job is that there is no such thing as an average day. The work is incredibly varied and can include: providing information sessions to schools, government and non-government organisations on police related matters, providing outreach support to young people through foot patrols, and conducting investigations for the development of strategic programmes concerning youth within my police service area
f I were to sum up my memories of this course in one word – that word would be possibilities. It has introduced me to skills and abilities I did not know I had. It has made me aware of information and knowledge I did not know existed. And this has all come together in an amalgam of potential actions and outcomes that I had never imagined possible.
Overall I would sum up my time at Melbourne University as one of the most enjoyable and rewarding occurrences in my life. I think I have been very lucky to be part of the Melbourne University experience where I was exposed to wonderful teachers and facilities. I have always said the best thing that I ever did with my life was to join Victoria police. I still stand by that statement. However, I am absolutely certain that the second best thing I have ever done was to embark upon this course. It has been hard work and it has demanded a tremendous amount of me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually but it has given me so much in return and I am so very grateful for having been given the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful experience.
Merel and Nadia, two child psychology students from the Netherlands spent eight weeks doing a student placement within two of our research projects. They were at the Centre for Adolescent Health to write their bachelor’s thesis.
They told us “It was a great experience being here. It was a pleasure to see how the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children’s Hospital research teams operate. All the co-workers are interested in each other’s project. It was a wonderful experience being here and to meet all the nice staff! We learned a lot about what research is and it was great to see how the staff worked together and were very helpful to each other. We loved our internship at the Centre for Adolescent Health and to see the brand new hospital with all the child friendly facilities. It is amazing that everything is just there in one hospital. We had a great time!”
The CATS study is a new and unique longitudinal study of children in metropolitan Melbourne as they approach adolescence. The study began in 2012 and is following over 1200 children from grade 3 (8-9 years of age). It will cover the experiences of children and their families, their changing social context as they move into secondary school, and the biological changes of puberty. Findings from this study will be used to determine which children are most at risk as they pass through puberty and the middle years of school, and to see if certain modifiable factors may be a target for preventative interventions.
Find out more information on our website: http://www.mcri.edu.au/cats
Check out our new video to learn more about CATS! http://www.mcri.edu.au/truthaboutcats/]
You can also keep up to date through our facebook page: www.facebook.com/cats.study.9
This paper reports on research from the Longitudinal Study of Australian children, in which parents of children were interviewed over time, and asked questions on puberty, behaviour, emotional, social and school functioning.
Lead researcher, Dr Fiona Mensah, says the study provides new evidence of pre-existing and persistent early childhood differences in socio-emotional well being amongst children who experience early puberty.
“There is a heightened risk for behaviour and emotional problems during puberty; and children who reach puberty earlier than their peers have more of these difficulties in adolescence.”
Professor George Patton says the study supports a ‘life course’ hypothesis.
“Understanding what lies behind early puberty may also tell us much about the origins of emotional and behavioural problems of children and adolescents.”
The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
George Patton was interviewed by the ABC. To listen to the interview click here.
Fiona and George write Conversation piece
There has been a good deal of interest in a question about whether very early adolescent heavy cannabis use may cause ongoing problems even when someone stops cannabis use. The early teens are a time of rapid brain development involving those parts involved in emotional control. Studies in rats have suggested large doses of cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis) may alter longer terms patterns of anxiety. Other studies in humans have raised a question about early cannabis users have reduced intelligence later in adulthood. We found that in our study of two thousand young Victorians a two-fold higher rate of anxiety problems in the later twenties even where an individual was no longer using cannabis. We could not account for it by other aspects of an individual’s lifestyle or their earlier history of mental health problems. It is consistent with a view that heavy (at least weekly) early teen cannabis use does increase the risks for later anxiety problems.
Degenhardt L, Coffey C, Romaniuk H, Swift W, Carlin JB, Hall WD, Patton GC. The persistence of the association between adolescent cannabis use and common mental disorders into young adulthood. Addiction. 2013; 108(1): 124-33.
The Centre for Adolescent Health congratulates its director, Professor Susan Sawyer, on the occasion of her induction into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll on March 13th, 2013.
The Victorian Honour Roll of Women recognises and celebrates women who have made an extraordinary contribution to Victoria. Women have been inducted into the Honour Roll for their contributions in a diverse range of fields including health, science, law, social justice, sport, arts, media and education, as well as their involvement in ethnic and Indigenous communities. The vision, talent and commitment of the women on the Honour Roll has enriched Victoria, and their stories of success have been a source of inspiration to all Victorians.
Professor Sawyer was nominated for her contribution to Victorian young people through her professional efforts in the field of Adolescent Health and Medicine.
On receiving the award, Professor Sawyer reported that she felt incredibly humbled by the honour. When asked what motivates her work, she said, ‘I’ve always gravitated to challenging problems. Working with complex young people in a complex service system is not easy, but it does make the hard won rewards of individual change or system reform feel especially sweet. In the meantime, I remain inspired by working with young people, and working with a great team in a great place.’
To read more about it click here