Empowering Youth for Health and Career Success

HealthWISE is bringing an initiative designed to empower youth to make healthy choices to the New England North West region.

HealthWISE Chairperson Lia Mahony was thrilled to announce the commencement of the Students As LifeStyle Activists (SALSA) regional program, set to kick off this Wednesday, May 10, at the University Of Newcastle Department Of Rural Health in Tamworth.

“The SALSA program is a peer-led, evidence-based leadership initiative aimed at motivating high school students to increase physical activity, improve diet, make healthy choices, and enhance overall wellbeing,” Ms Mahony said.

“With a proven track record of success, the program has already been implemented in 37 schools, positively impacting over 23,000 students.”

Rolling out in Oxley High, Glen Innes High, Gunnedah High and Narrabri High; Newcastle university students undertaking a fourth year rural placement at the Tamworth campus will train local Year 10 students, who will then deliver interactive lessons to Year 8 students. The younger students will have the opportunity to develop personal goals and create a school action plan each year, fostering a sense of empowerment and personal growth.

A SALSA workshop held at the University of Sydney.

SALSA has been made possible through funding from the NSW government’s ‘Our Region, Our Voice’, Regional Youth Investment Program, which awarded a grant to HealthWISE to implement the initiative in high schools across our region.

Research highlights the importance of school-based health promotion programs to reach and benefit young people, regardless of their socio-economic status. The SALSA program addresses significant health challenges and equips students with valuable, work-ready skills such as leadership, teaching, communication, and team building.

The program also aims to expand the career pathways and further studies high school students are considering through their interactions with allied health university students, and to build their understanding of the ways physical and mental health are inextricably linked to positive life outcomes, including education and employment.

SALSA is designed to improve students’ health literacy – the understanding of a person’s health and health care and ability to make decisions accordingly – in order to improve their health outcomes.

The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health found that motivating young people with depression and anxiety to change their behaviours around physical activity and nutrition can improve both physical and mental health outcomes.

With the vision of ‘Creating Healthier Communities’ at its core, HealthWISE believes that empowering youth to make positive changes in their own lives can have lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of our entire community.

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