Toni’s helping to spread the word on health

Left to Right: Health champions Chloe Tate, Theo Stewart, and Toni Parkin
Left to Right: Health champions Chloe Tate, Theo Stewart, and Toni Parkin

A LYNEMOUTH teenager is giving important advice to her peers after becoming a health champion.

Toni Parkin is qualified to help spread healthy living messages among young people now that she has passed the Royal Society for Public Health Understanding Health Improvement course.

She was among a group of 13 students at Northumberland College who worked with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to complete the programme and gain a level two qualification.

The 17-year-old, who wants to go to university to study forensic psychology, said: “I really liked doing the course and learning about diet, alcohol consumption, smoking and how it affects your health. The tutor made it really interesting.

“In one of the lessons we learnt about how many units are in different alcoholic drinks and they brought along these beer goggles which make you feel like you’re drunk when you put them on to show the effects of alcohol.”

The students now get involved in delivering a number of campaigns to raise awareness about health issues with young people.

The most recent one was setting up stalls, handing out leaflets and showing films at the college on No Smoking Day last week.

Course Team Leader Sheila Jenkins said: “Our health champions are the figureheads for all our campaigns and it really works well.

“We’ve found that young people are more likely to listen to advice when it comes from their peers and it helps spread health messages to students who may not usually have had any contact with the health service.”

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been running the course for more than four years and it has worked with county organisations including colleges, children centres and the prison service to recruit over 800 health champions.

Health Improvement Specialist at the Trust Kay Yeo said: “I’m really proud of Toni and all of the students for what they have achieved.

“The role of the health champions in the community is really important as not only can they help us to get healthy living messages out far and wide, they also help to signpost people to our services so they can get professional advice and support to make informed decisions about their health.”