Youth Health Champion Pilot programme underway in Waltham Forest Secondary Schools

In July 2016 the London Borough of Waltham Forest saw the first cohort of Youth Health Champions trained in Waltham Forest Secondary Schools. This programme is commissioned by the Public Health Department.

The Youth Health Champions programme is a peer education initiative, with students trained to impart key messages around health and wellbeing to school peers. Based on existing peer education programmes, this initiative was proposed after a survey of secondary aged pupils in Waltham Forest found that 90% agreed it was a ‘good idea to train students …to become young health advisors so that they can give other students advice about staying healthy’.

A total of eight schools are taking part in the pilot, with each school selecting eight Youth Health Champions for the training. Four schools attended the July session to learn about the principles of health promotion, become familiar with health services available to young people, and plan their own health campaigns to take back to their respective schools.

The training was delivered by Alix Sheppard of Health Talks, a lead of the founding team for Youth Health Champion in the first Essex pilot of 2007 and a lead consultant for the RSPH Youth Health Movement. Initial feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with both staff and pupils fired up to translate learning from the day into health promotion activity in their schools. 

This initiative forms part of the broader health in schools work underway in the borough. One school has already incorporated the YHC team into their Healthy Schools London Silver award plan, with a focus on sexual health. Other teams are planning campaigns on tackling homophobia and sexist language, mindfulness, increasing physical activity and ‘5 a day’ for mental health. The second and final cohort training is scheduled for September

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