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Community health improvement training

Residents of Wandsworth now have a truly local option when seeking to improve their health – pop next door and speak to a neighbour, now fully trained by St Mary’s Health and Wellbeing Services as a health ‘Champion’, able to support and signpost friends, family and neighbours to make changes to improve their health.

In June last year, Health and Wellbeing Services was awarded £17,500 by the London Borough of Wandsworth to deliver 12 Understanding Health Improvement courses. The project focused on the area of Roehampton and trained 125 local residents as Champions for Change.

This Understanding Health Improvement award includes modules covering topics such as recent government policy on public health, the idea of the ‘Health Champion’, and facts and guidelines on nutrition, physical activity, alcohol, smoking and sexual health. The training is accredited by the Royal Society of Public Health and those that pass the multiple choice exam get a level two qualification.

On completion of the training, each Champion made three pledges to change their own lifestyle for the better and to encourage friends, family members or community peers to do the same. Many of them pledged to cut down or completely give up their own drinking and smoking habits, encourage their neighbours to join gyms, and promote healthier eating within their own households.

A total of 118 people have attended a Change Champion workshop. When participants were followed up six weeks later nearly two-thirds (63%) of clients had made significant changes to benefit their health. A quarter had become more active, a fifth were eating more healthily and nearly a fifth had lost weight. Over a tenth felt they had improved their mental health.

Good Health Continues

The lasting benefits of the training courses for the individuals taking part have been exemplary. Almost two-thirds of the participating Champions were out of work or looking to improve their employability and, on completion of the course and subsequent active service in their communities, have either found employment or seen a marked improvement in their employability and prospects.

Health and Wellbeing Services has also run similar training courses for local authorities in Kingston-upon- Thames, Ealing, and Hertfordshire, and for Westway Community Trust and Brunel University.

What the Champions Say

“The course really changed my life. I keep fit now and really know how to look after myself.”

“This is a brilliant course. I really am more equipped to help others in my community to become healthier.”

“Thank you so much for helping me; I got so much out of the course. I went to the gym immediately and now I go a lot!”