>> Schools are being encouraged to recruit Youth Health Champions to promote healthy eating and lifestyles amongst their peers.

This innovative new qualification is targeted at school students aged 14-18 and has been developed to enable young people to act as ‘health advisors’ to their classmates.

The training, which takes less than 40 hours to complete, empowers the students to explore the causes and consequences of unhealthy behaviours and how to provide help and support to anyone engaged in activities that might damage their health, including smoking, unhealthy diets and alcohol misuse.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “In order to tackle the growing burden of health inequalities, it is essential that we focus on the next generation educating them from a young age of the importance of making healthy choices.

“Our new qualification is the first of its kind to enable students to develop the skills and the knowledge to not only support their peers to live healthier lives, but also to increase their own knowledge and awareness. The qualification will also contribute to their personal development by improving their communication and planning skills, as well giving them responsibility and a greater sense of empowerment.”

What is a Youth Health Champion?

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:
• Data from the Schools Health Improvement Survey
• Food For Life Partnership priorities
• 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.

For more information visit: www. rsph.org.uk/en/resources/videos/ youth-health-champions.cfm