The first argument in the NHS Five Year Forward View (2015) is unambiguous: the future health of millions of children and young people is dependent on a ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’. Twelve years ago Derek Wanless’ health review warned that unless the country took prevention seriously we would be faced with a sharply rising burden of avoidable illness. That warning was not heeded and, according to Simon Stevens, the NHS is now on the hook for the consequences.
The good news is that the change makers are in place, in local communities, in cities, towns and rural areas across the country. They are young volunteers, between the ages of 14 and 25, who want to lead by example. They are learning about what keeps them healthy, not just lifestyle but the wider determinants too, and they want to share that knowledge with their peers.
Peer education is an effective, evidence-based approach for enhancing the young volunteer workforce capacity and, at the same time, delivering health messages in schools and communities.
StreetGames, the national youth charity, has been active in this field for eight years. We believe in putting young people with lived experience in the driving seat. Young people and their families growing up in the most deprived communities in the country are in the best position to know what help is needed. Peer education and support are most acceptable to young people: peer approaches are empowering for both the giver and the recipient and bypass resistance to traditional messages and messengers.
StreetGames is proud to be leading on this area of work for the Young People’s Health Partnership. You can find out more about young health champions, peer mentoring and hear what the young health champions think on the StreetGames website.
Paul Jarvis-Beesley is Head of Health at StreetGames and can be contacted on 07889 046106 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow @StreetGames to keep up to date with their news and activities.