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BACKGROUND: Adolescents living with chronic illnesses engage in health risk behaviors (HRB) which pose challenges for optimizing care and management of their ill health. Frequent monitoring of HRB is recommended, however little is known about which are the most useful tools to detect HRB among chronically ill adolescents. AIMS: This systematic review was conducted to address important knowledge gaps on the assessment of HRB among chronically ill adolescents. Its specific aims were to: identify HRB assessment tools, the geographical location of the studies, their means of administration, the psychometric properties of the tools and the commonest forms of HRB assessed among adolescents living with chronic illnesses globally. METHODS: We searched in four bibliographic databases of PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO and Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts for empirical studies published until April 2017 on HRB among chronically ill adolescents aged 10-17 years. RESULTS: This review indicates a major dearth of research on HRB among chronically ill adolescents especially in low income settings. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System and Health Behavior in School-aged Children were the commonest HRB assessment tools. Only 21% of the eligible studies reported psychometric properties of the HRB tools or items. Internal consistency was good and varied from 0.73 to 0.98 whereas test-retest reliability varied from unacceptable (0.58) to good (0.85). Numerous methods of tool administration were also identified. Alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and physical inactivity are the commonest forms of HRB assessed. CONCLUSION: Evidence on the suitability of the majority of the HRB assessment tools has so far been documented in high income settings where most of them have been developed. The utility of such tools in low resource settings is often hampered by the cultural and contextual variations across regions. The psychometric qualities were good but only reported in a minority of studies from high income settings. This result points to the need for more resources and capacity building for tool adaptation and validation, so as to enhance research on HRB among chronically ill adolescents in low resource settings.

Original publication




Journal article


Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health

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Adolescents, Assessment tools, Chronic illness, Health risk behavior, Lifestyle, Tool adaptation