Improving the health & wellbeing of young people through public health. Wendy Nicholson – Public Health England

We are all faced with challenges as we make our way through life, some more than others, and it can be daunting as an adult, so it’s really hard to imagine how difficult life can be for young people today with all of the complexities of our world.  Young people’s health is really important; poor health in adolescence can last a lifetime, however if they get the appropriate support this will positively affect them as individuals and society as a whole. We also know that early preventative measures including public health can make a huge difference.

Public Health England are really serious about improving the health and wellbeing of young people – we know if young people are supported as they move towards adulthood this will make a difference to their lives today and in the future.  Here at PHE we ensure there is a clear evidence base to support our work and that health service providers such as school nurses, GPs, dentists, pharmacists and wider partners including youth services or teachers have access to sound information to support their work. It is so important that young people have access to consistent, clear messages and services which meet their needs and help them to make good choices about their wellbeing. We have some great materials for young people or those working with them can use – check out our Change4Life materials and the Rise Above website.

Within the Nursing team we work closely with school nurses, who have a vital role in supporting young people with their health and wellbeing. The title school nursing is confusing as many school nurses work both in schools but also within local communities – and during the school holidays! They also provide services in colleges and other settings such as youth clubs. The role of school nurses has changed; this is in line with the new challenges facing young people and to respond to how young people want to access support. They are working in the ‘digital space’ – providing both face to face and on-line or behind the screen support. School nursing is a confidential service; young people can get advice on general wellbeing, immunisations, bullying, mental health issues, weight management and sexual health, as well as more intensive support including advice on sexual exploitation or abuse. So it’s worth checking out what your local service can provide!

Young people are not just ‘users’ of health services. They are and indeed must be active partners in shaping new service and  improving existing services – the voice of young people is a must,  if we are to get services and support right for young people. At PHE we are committed to working in partnership with young people – we have been leading the review of the You’re Welcome quality criteria, with NHS England and this has meant great joint working with the Association for Young People’s Health, the British Youth Council and the North West Region Youth Work Unit to ensure the refreshed standards are truly young people focussed.  We know the standards can make a huge difference in ensuring local health services are young people friendly, which in turn means more young people are likely to seek help or support when they need it.

Young people are also vital health influencers and can create a real climate for change – so if you are up for a challenge perhaps you can encourage the young people you work with to join our social movement? Check out our junior antibiotic guardian programme!



Together we can make a difference now and for future generations.

Young people’s health matters – collectively we can make a huge difference to tackling the challenges such as childhood obesity, mental health and – but additionally we need to work with young people to find solutions that work and recognise them as valuable community based assets who can change the health and wellbeing of our society.

Wendy is the national lead nurse covering Children, Young People and Families at Public Health England. You can follow her on twitter.

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