Health Trainers Topic of Radio 4 Programme
30 March 2009
In 2007 the RSPH was funded by the Department of Health to develop a programme of learning for Health Trainers. This has resulted in the development of the RSPH Level 2 Award in Understanding Health Improvement. The government white paper, entitled Choosing Health: Making healthy choices easier published in 2004, identified the need for a new role of NHS Health Trainer to be established, to advise, motivate and support individuals to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The short Level 2 Award has been developed in support of the wider Health Trainer role identified in the white paper, for which Level 3 qualifications have also been developed by other awarding bodies.
Health Trainers were the topic of a recent Radio 4 programme, Whose Health is it Anyway? presented by Barbara Myers, on the 9th March 2009
Introduction- ‘Well we’ve been told time and again on the television, in magazines and by medical professionals what’s good for our health. So why can’t we lose weight, stop smoking and get fit? If we can’t do it on our own can a new breed of personal health trainers do it for us? Barbara Myers asks if health trainers are the key to a healthier Britain.’
The programme began with two health trainers, John and Jackie, talking about the health problems they have struggled with. Jackie says ‘I’ve successfully quit smoking, I’ve struggled with my weight on and off over the years, so when people come in, I feel like you know I can empathise with them, I can give them as much support as I can.’
Barbara Myers began ‘Jackie and John have both struggled with their health, and their unhealthy lifestyle. And who hasn’t? Too much food, too little exercise, and the other usual suspects; booze and fags. But unlike the rest of us, Jackie and John have turned their personal quest for healthy living into a public mission. Taking part in the unique grassroots public health initiative they have become health trainers.’
Barbara Myers explained that health trainers are men and women of all ages and from various different backgrounds, who are using their own life experiences and their understanding of the local community to help others improve their health.
Rachael Carse, the NHS national programme lead for health trainers, said of them: ‘They are so motivated to help people in the right way without being bossy and they are so focused on getting it right and supporting their communities’
Barbara Myers outlined that the programme aim was to find out more about the ‘new breed’ of health trainers and whether the concept can really make a difference to the health of the nation. The idea was proposed by the Department of Health in 2004, in its white paper ‘Choosing Health’. The slogan was ‘advice from next door not from on high’. A few spearhead PCTs began training and recruiting volunteers to work in various community settings. Other PCTs are only now beginning to roll it out; provision is patchy. So if you’ve never met a health trainer how would you recognise one? Carse said ‘in essence a health trainer could be anybody. It could be your librarian; it could be a pharmacy assistant. It is somebody who has protected time to do their health trainer work.’