A group of Young Health Champions (YHCs) in Wigan produced a campaign around the signs and symptoms of sepsis, toxic shock syndrome and meningitis.

They were trained through a partnership between RSPH and Wigan Borough Council, with young people from a number of different schools in Wigan taking part. The Public Health team at the council trained the YHCs and provided support to their campaign.

Their choice of campaign was inspired by the sad loss of Jemma Roberts, who died at the age of 13 as a result of complications causes by sepsis. Joseph Roberts, Jemma’s brother, was one of the YHCs involved in creating and delivering the campaign.

The YHCs based their campaign around an information video they produced, telling Gemma’s story and raising awareness around the signs and symptoms of sepsis.

The video was launched at Young Health Movement Conference in 2017 and has been praised and shared by the UK Sepsis Trust.

Natalie Martlew and Sarah Collinge are both 16 and took part in the project. Sarah said: "I think messages like this are more effective when they’re coming from people your own age because you can relate to each other so young people are more likely to listen." Natalie said: "I’ve definitely become a more confident person by doing this. We made a video as part of the campaign and at first I didn’t want to be in it but now that sort of thing doesn’t bother me at all."

Charlie Bracher, Public Health Officer at Wigan Borough Council, said: “I am really proud of the work our Young Health Champions have done to create and lead this campaign. They have shown such maturity and bravery in addressing an issue that is so close to their hearts. I have seen them grow over the course of the programme and they have become huge assets to Wigan Council and our local community."

Professor Kate Ardern, Director of Public Health in Wigan Borough Council and RSPH Trustee, said: "Health champions are at the heart of our citizen-led public health movement. Young people are full of passion and enthusiasm so are fantastic at passing on important health messages to our younger citizens."

Councillor Jenny Bullen, Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, said: "The young people who have given up their free time to get involved in this programme are a great example to others. I hope other young people will take up this fantastic opportunity to learn more about how to take care of their own health and help raise awareness with others."

Since 2016, RSPH has trained over 90 Young Health Champions in Wigan. A random survey of those who have took part in the training found that:

  • Over 90% of the young people trained experienced an increase in confidence
  • Over 90% have changed their behaviours including reducing smoking and increasing physical activity
  • 95% of the Young Health Champions are aware of the local health and wellbeing services available and are able to signpost friends and family