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Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

A peer-led program which motivates high school students to improve their physical activity,  diet and overall wellbeing was launched by local non profit HealthWISE at Glen Innes High School this week.

As part of the Students As LifeStyle Activists (SALSA) regional program, students from the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health trained 23 year 9 and year 10 students to deliver interactive lessons to year 8 students.  

“It has been so wonderful to travel out to Glen Innes and deliver the SALSA program alongside HealthWISE in the New England region for the first time,” said Dr Smita Shah, Director of the Western Sydney Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU). 

“With the leadership of these fantastic students, we will make a difference,” she said. 

The program was made possible with funding from the NSW government’s ‘Our Region, Our  Voice’ Regional Youth Investment Program, which aims to empower youth in the New  England North West region. 

Students participated eagerly in activities such as a dinner plate relay, ultimate frisbee,  lunchbox lotto and mapping out local spaces suitable for exercising. They pitched a school  action plan focusing on ways to increase physical activity to principal Adam Forrester, who  gave the tick of approval. 

“From the level of student participation I witnessed today, it seems to me like they really  enjoyed the program,” school support liaison Evelyn Harrington said.  

“This program will be a great confidence builder for the peer leaders.” 

“We were nervous about delivering SALSA for the first time, but you guys made it easy,” university student Robbie Baird told the group.  

HealthWISE mental health clinician Anne Edwards spoke with the students about healthy habits to maintain good mental health. The day finished with the group practicing their peer leaderships skills in anticipation of delivering the workshop to the younger students. 

“It was clear that everyone had fun, felt involved and learned a lot,” HealthWISE community  engagement officer Samantha Fairless said.  

“Glen Innes High school were the first to sign up for the SALSA program in the New England and their enthusiasm to be a part of the program continues to be clearly  evident. I really commend the teachers and principal for encouraging student participation  and for being willing to ensure the success of the program in their school.” 

SALSA workshops will also roll out at Narrabri High, Gunnedah High and Tamworth’s Oxley  High. The program has already reached 23,000 students across the country, fostering  leadership and team building skills, and improving their health literacy. 

Top Image: University Department of Rural Health student Guy Crawley talks with the Glen Innes High students.

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