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Newbiggin volunteers work with Northumbria Healthcare to spread healthy living messages

Thursday, 03 July, 2014
Newbiggin volunteers work with Northumbria Healthcare to spread healthy living messages

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is working with volunteers at a learning centre in Newbiggin as part of the national health champion programme to help spread healthy living messages to residents.

Across Northumberland the trust delivers the health champion programme which provides free training and support for staff and volunteers to become champions in their organisation.

Health champions are trained to use their skills to motivate, educate and support others within their communities and workplaces. The aim is to help people to start the journey towards healthy choices and to signpost them to relevant services and support.

This includes giving information about healthy eating, staying active, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol and reducing stress as well as promoting public health campaigns to residents.

Rose Courtney is one of five volunteers at the Learning Hive in Newbiggin who are involved in the health champion programme.

Rose 58, a mother-of-one from Newbiggin, has angina and volunteers two-and-half days a week, providing information and advice to help people to find employment.

She said: “I’ve really enjoyed the programme and it’s given me the opportunity to get more qualifications. Because of my condition, learning about nutrition and healthier lifestyles has really helped me and I now feel confident that I can pass on what I’ve learnt to others and help them to be healthier too.”
Over 26,000 people nationally have undertaken The Royal Society for Public Health Level 2 Award in understanding health improvement which is recognised as the required qualification for health champions.

Denise Mielnik, health trainer at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust who delivered the health champion programme with colleagues at the Learning Hive, said
“Having a healthy conversation can only take a few minutes but can have a lasting impact.

“The programme empowers people and gives them the confidence to speak to friends, neighbours, and people they work with about leading healthier lifestyles.

“We are looking to enlist more health champions in Northumberland so I would encourage individuals or workplaces who have an interest in promoting health and wellbeing to get in touch.”

Rachel Edwards, community engagement tutor at the Learning Hive, added: “We’ve been working with the health trainers for some time who’ve delivered a range of successful courses for our clients such as healthy eating courses.

“We felt this programme helped us to broaden the range of learning opportunities we can offer our volunteers and clients and it was free and easy to set up. It’s been great. Our health champion volunteers have really blossomed since taking part.”

The health champions approach is applicable to any setting including the workplace, the wider community and even with families and friends.“

Since June 2013, Northumbria Healthcare has recruited 25 health champions and is working with a variety of workplaces including voluntary organisations, youth workers, community groups and local community projects.

If you would like to know more about the health champion role contact the health improvement team at Northumbria Healthcare on 01670 811 972 or email