We know young people, particularly adolescents, receive much of their advice on health and wellbeing from peers. A survey conducted in the Borough showed that Waltham Forest pupils think peer education programmes are a good idea.
In Waltham Forest we have been running the Youth Health Champions programme for several years. The following Secondary schools have been or are currently involved:
It is important to be clear about the main responsibilities of a Youth Health Champion, and also to recognise the boundaries. A Youth Health Champion is not expected to give direct health advice, nor offer counselling or one to one support. They are, however, required to acts as "signposters" or "links" between students and other health professionals and services.
As a team, the Youth Health Champions plan and deliver health promotion campaigns to their peers. The topics for the campaigns can be drawn from a number of sources, including: Data from the Schools Health Improvement Survey, Public Health priority areas (either locally or nationally), School priority areas , Youth Health Champions' own experience , National Campaigns such as Fruity Friday, Meat Free Mondays and Change 4 Life etc.
Youth Health Champions can also be involved with school committees, school councils, pupil voice and steering groups. They can support the delivery of PSHE lessons, and organise health focus events during break and lunchtimes
90% of Waltham Forest Secondary pupils surveyed responded 'yes' to the question 'Do you think it's a good idea to train students in your year group to become young health advisors so that they can give other students advice about staying healthy?
Young people from age 14 undertake an RSPH Level 2 Certificate for Youth Health Champions, which is equivalent to a GCSE (13 QCF credits).
It consists of four modules delivered over two days; the first gives a basic understanding of the key determinants of health, followed by a research task about the health services in their own community, practice at delivering health messages to their peers, and one specialist module to deepen their understanding of a specific aspect of health.
The young people then offer support to their peers by providing confidential signposting to specialist health professionals, by raising awareness of health issues through the delivery of health promotion campaigns and by acting as healthy role models in their communities.
For more information about upcoming training, please contact Catherine Hutchinson.
There are a range of benefits to both the student Youth health Champions themselves, the pupils themselves and the schools that take part.