Young people work together with teachers in a bid to improve student health and wellbeing

The Young Health Champions programme has launched at a conference in Northamptonshire to highlight a training scheme for students to support their peers lead more active and healthy lifestyles.

As part of a pioneering scheme to transform how schools can have a more positive impact on students' wellbeing, the Young Health Champions programme has launched at a conference in Northamptonshire to highlight a training scheme for students to support their peers lead more active and healthy lifestyles.

The conference on Tuesday 22 March at Moulton College was part of the PE2020 Active Healthy Minds programme which aims to improve the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of young people aged 11 to 18 across Northamptonshire. 

Young Health Champions are young people with an interest in their own health and wellbeing who want to take on the role of supporting their peers who may be suffering from health and wellbeing issues in making healthy lifestyle choices. They will act as healthy lifestyle advocates, providing peers with health information and advice as well as signposting young people to local services.

The conference will launch the Young Health Champion Level 1 Award, a training scheme developed with the YMCA Awards and  YSD i-Academy, to give practical advice to the young people on how best to promote health and wellbeing to peers in schools.

Youth Sport Trust head of health and Wellbeing, Chris Wright, said: “These awards offer an exciting and flexible approach to health education. They will give the Young Health Champions practical skills to help them harness their natural energy and enthusiasm to facilitate peer-to-peer education about lifestyle related risks to health. 

“At the Youth Sport Trust we know that an active, healthy lifestyle helps young people fulfil their potential helping them to be happy, succeed in life and contribute to society. This project will help to effect real and lasting change to those who may not otherwise have been interested in being active.”

The conference will highlight the new training scheme for the champions working in their schools. The Young Health Champion Level 1 Award will enable the young champions to receive a qualification while filling an existing gap between healthy lifestyle leadership programmes in primary schools and the Level 2 Young Health Champions qualification.

Wright added: “Progression along this leadership pathway will develop knowledge skills, abilities and experience that will undoubtedly support the champions in all areas of life, as well as their peers, and could even lead to a career in the health and wellbeing, and fitness, sectors.”

YMCA Central Chief Executive, Rosi Prescott,  said: “This is exactly the type of initiative this award was developed for. Research shows how important physical activity is in increasing the brain’s executive function, delivering significant long term benefit to individuals and society."

Since September 2015, Northamptonshire County Council has worked in partnership with Northamptonshire Sport and independent charity the Youth Sport Trust on a pioneering approach to delivering PE and sport in secondary schools, to positively impact on student achievement and attainment.

Former world champion bobsleigh racer and Youth Sport Trust athlete mentor Nicola Minichiello was also at the conference, speaking to delegates of her own experiences.

The programme will run over three academic years until July 2018, involving all secondary schools in the Northamptonshire and is to be independently evaluated.

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