WIGAN’S first-ever young health champions were welcomed into their new role promoting wellbeing in communities across the borough by one of Britain’s leading health professionals.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive designate of Public Health England, presented the 14 health champions with their certificates and spoke to them about the importance of tackling health issues such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise.
The new young health champions, who are currently studying at Wigan and Leigh College, will work at a local level in schools, colleges, workplaces and among family and friends, giving out advice on living a healthy lifestyle.
The champions were put through an intensive two-day learning course before having to pass an exam on their new knowledge about lifestyles and wellbeing. Duncan, whose visit to Wigan also included meeting health authorities from across Greater Manchester, told the champions a grassroots approach was vital to tackling the health inequalities which continue to exist in Britain, with life expectancies across Wigan varying by some eight years.
He said: “Health is not all about medicine and what goes on in hospitals and GPs’ surgeries, because people don’t really listen to the government and don’t always listen to the NHS.
“Health messages are much more powerful coming from family and friends.”
Health champion Lisa Burtonwood, 23, from Worsley Hall, said: “The course has been really fun, they made it very interactive with lots of group activities which made it very enjoyable.
“I already knew that Wigan has struggled with weight through doing the Lose Weight Feel Great programme, but I thought it was very interesting learning about how people in the south live longer than those in the north, and how high heart attack rates in Wigan are.
“It was a bit of a shock, actually, and I will definitely be taking the things I have learned forward and will be telling everybody about it.”
Wigan director of public health Dr Kate Ardern said: “This is a really exciting development, and I see the health champions being at the forefront of driving improvements, particularly in the areas of lifestyle and mental health. They are our young public health advocates.”