People in Sunderland are becoming health champions to help their family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours.
The initiative began in 2011 to recruit and train people to promote healthy living messages at home, work and socially in a more informal, face-to-face conversational way.
Since then, more than 650 people have become accredited health champions with another 1,400 currently in training.
Local community groups host the new Sunderland Health Champion networks to provide a place in each area of the city for health champion training and support.
Over the past four years the Sunderland Health Champions programme has been rolled out across Sunderland, after first being introduced in the west of the city and in Washington.
Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: “This is a great way to get involved in your community, learn new skills through access to training opportunities and improve your own health and that of your friends and families as a result.
“It’s a twelve month process but you don’t have to do all five modules at once.
“It’s a great way of strengthening existing networks and creating new ones. The Health Champions programme increases everyone’s awareness of what help and support is available with regular updates and evaluation, and it is up to each individual how far they want to take the training.”
People concerned about health issues affecting their community and interested in helping to promote healthier lifestyles, are given the chance to attend free training courses to raise their awareness of each issue, and the help and support available to address them.
The issues include alcohol and legal highs, tobacco brief intervention, understanding emotional health and resilience training, understanding health improvement and healthy money, healthy you.
Training is provided at community venues for a range of people and organisations from voluntary groups, the City Council and other large employers, to people active within their communities such as volunteers, ward councillors and parents/carers.
People who complete all five training modules within twelve months become accredited Health Champions.
One of the first people to become a Health Champion is Dave Thorpe, 66, from Ford Estate.
Dave, who began volunteering in 2010, said: “I was in recovery from alcoholism and first became involved with NERAF (Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addition Foundation) through the Alcohol Basic Intervention Course I was on.
“I was very interested in helping others through my own experiences and became registered on the project, with regular information about other courses you might be interested in.
“With the training and support I’ve received I’ve set up my own SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) addiction and dependency recovery group. I’ve been through these personal issues myself so can relate to people’s problems and assess how serious they have become, so I can direct them to the specialist help and support that they need.”
Mr Thorpe, added: “People feel more relaxed and comfortable discussing their problems in groups. Becoming involved also increases your own self-esteem and confidence, because you know that while helping others you are also helping yourself.”
People who are interested in becoming a health champion are invited to find out more at:
North – Monday 8 February 2016 at 2pm, Marley Fire and Rescue Service, Marley Potts.
West - Tuesday 9 February 2016 at 1pm, Pallion Action Group, Pallion.
East – Wednesday 10 February at 1pm, Sunderland International Bangladeshi Centre, Hendon.
Coalfield – Thursday 11 February at 1pm,Easington Lane Community Access Point, Training Room
Washington – Friday 12 February at 1pm, The Life House, Washington Mind.