The University of Southampton

LifeLab moves support online to enable young people to complete qualification

When the lockdown forced us to close our doors at Lifelab, we were midway through an exciting year of research and projects all aimed at supporting young people in making healthy lifestyle choices.

One of those projects was delivering the Royal Society for Public Health’s Young Health Champions (YHC) qualification with a group of students from Thornden School.ewan1

The YHC qualification, developed by RSPH trains young people up to become ambassadors for healthy lifestyle choices.

Along with increasing their own understanding of why good health matters, the students are trained to become effective ambassadors in their own communities, with skills to signpost their peers to further support if needed.

LifeLab is an accredited centre to deliver the Level 2 qualification and last year was awarded the ‘Centre of Excellence’ Hygeia award by RSPH in recognition for the quality of our work.

The group of Year 9 students had completed three of the four units for the qualification, when the restrictions were imposed.  After reviewing the syllabus, LifeLab educators came up with a plan to enable the students to complete the qualification online.

LifeLab lead for YHC, Lisa Bagust explains: “Despite not being able to work with the students at LifeLab we have been looking at how our work can continue by keeping in touch in other ways. Having reviewed the final unit the students needed to complete we felt we could provide the right support in order to deliver it online and so have set up virtual meetings to enable that.”

“The students’ final task is to deliver a health campaign in their own communities which ordinarily would be delivered in school, so they will have to adapt their campaigns to be able to be delivered online and also to consider how best to reach their peers.”

“Those campaigns could be on topics like physical and mental health, sleep patterns and social media use; all really relevant issues for young people in the current time. We’re excited to see what they come up with.”

The group held their first online meeting this week and are now working on the challenge of creating their health campaigns online.

They will be considering how they can deliver their campaign outside of school using other platforms than face to face contact with their peers at school.

Student Ewan, 14, said he was pleased to have been able to complete the qualification.

“It would have been a shame if the work we had put in didn’t count for anything so I am pleased we get to finish it off. I have really enjoyed doing the course because I have learnt much more about why health matters and I think it is important to try and help other people who might need support.”

LifeLab named Centre of Excellence at prestigious awards event

Giving young people the opportunity to make positive changes to their own health through scientific discovery has always been at the heart of an innovative education project based in Southampton.

Now, LifeLab has been recognised as a Centre of Excellence by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) for its work in supporting young people to become ambassadors for change in their own communities.

The RSPH developed the Young Health Champions qualification which supports young people to train as peer health mentors. Those who take part in the scheme develop the skills and confidence to design and lead a health promotion campaign that is relevant to them.

As a long-time supporter of the programme, LifeLab successfully secured RSPH Centre status for delivering this qualification in July 2017 and, as a result, dozens of students have taken up the opportunity to complete the scheme.

In recognition of its high standard of teaching, support and outcomes, LifeLab was presented with the Centre of Excellence Award 2019 at the RSPH Hygeia Award ceremony held in London this week, by newsreader and RSPH Vice President Natasha Kaplinsky.

The centre was praised for its commitment to learners through the induction programme, support during course, mentoring and coaching. The award is only given to those centres who can also demonstrate a high pass rate and who have successfully worked in collaboration with a range of stakeholders in areas including vocational training, local government, schools and charities.

(l to r) Programme leader Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend, LifeLab co- director Professor Keith Godfrey and RSPH vice president Natasha Kaplinsky
(l to r) Programme leader Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend, LifeLab co- director Professor Keith Godfrey and RSPH vice president Natasha Kaplinsky

Not only did LifeLab claim an award, teachers who deliver the training at the centre, based at University Hospital Southampton were also highly commended alongside students who submitted their projects to the RSPH Hygeia awards.

LifeLab programme leader Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend said: “We were delighted to receive the Centre for Excellence award from RSPH for our work in providing and delivering the Young Health Champions qualification.

“We are passionate advocates of this qualification, as it provides training and support for young people to be the champions for health in their own communities. The students choose to design and deliver health campaigns on issues that they think are of relevance in their schools to support their peers. The health campaigns delivered this year centred around social media use, sleep, emotional health and wellbeing, body image amongst others.

“This award is testament to the hard work by the excellent teachers at LifeLab, who also received Highly Commended certificates for their work – Donna Lovelock and Lisa Bagust and our links with our partners Southampton City Council and the Healthy High Five team, and the Saints Foundation, but more importantly the work of the young people themselves and the support of their schools.”

A number of schools across Hampshire have qualified students as Young Health Champions through LifeLab, including Thornden School, Oasis Academy Sholing, Oasis Academy Lordshill, St George’s Catholic School, Woodlands Community College, Redbridge Community School and Cantell School.

Students from Thornden School take part in YHC at LifeLab
Students from Thornden School take part in YHC at LifeLab

Students from Oasis Academy Sholing and Thornden School received Highly Commended Certificates at the awards ceremony, along with the teacher leading the work at Thornden School Nicky Wood.

LifeLab is based at University Hospital Southampton and is a joint initiative of the University of Southampton Education School and faculty of Medicine along with the National Institute for Health Research Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

LifeLab teams up with Southampton Football Club to deliver public health initiative


In this blog we have already spoken about our great partnership with Southampton City Council in delivering the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) initiative  – Young Health Champions.

Now are are hugely excited to be teaming up with the Saints Foundation, the official charity of Southampton Football Club, to ensure more young people benefit from this fantastic qualification.

The RSPH developed the Young Health Champions qualification, which supports young people to train as peer health mentors. The young people develop the skills and confidence to design and lead a health promotion campaign that is relevant to their communities.

As a long-time supporter of the programme, LifeLab successfully secured RSPH Centre status for delivering this qualification in July 2017 and the opportunity has already been taken up by students across Hampshire including at Thornden school. As the most recent students to embark on the YHC scheme, they are currently putting together their own health campaigns to showcase to their peers.

Kathryn Woods-Townsend, Programme Manager at LifeLab, said: “We have successfully delivered the Young Health Champions programme to young people from across Southampton for a number of years. Both Saints Foundation and Southampton Football Club are organisations known throughout our city and our region and we look forward to using this partnership to engage more young people around their health and wellbeing”

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This new partnership offers an exceptional opportunity for more students in Southampton’s schools to work with Saints Foundation’s Community Champions in their schools to achieve this qualification.

Ben Keens, Community Champion Coordinator at Saints Foundation, said: “We are looking forward to training young people from across Southampton in the Young Health Champions programme. This project represents an exciting addition to the work we already do to support the health and wellbeing of individuals from across Southampton and the surrounding areas.”

For the schools taking part in the programme, their participation will also enable them to achieve the Southampton City Council’s Healthy High 5 award. This award is a school-based health and wellbeing initiative led by Southampton City Council and Solent NHS Trust.

Mia Wren, Head of Integrated Early Help and Prevention at Solent NHS Trust, said: “The Healthy High 5 Award has been designed to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of all pupils whose schools are taking part in the award. It targets key public health concerns affecting young people, including healthy eating, smoking cessation and the consumption of fizzy and energy drinks. We are delighted to be working with partner agencies across Southampton to educate young people about these important public health issues.”

After the Young Health Champions have completed their training, they will showcase their activities and campaigns at a celebration event in July, organised by Saints Foundation. The showcase will be attended by local and regional policy makers, organisations and influencers in Southampton, giving the Young Health Champions an opportunity to make their voice heard by decision makers in their city.

Aaron Mansfield, Young People’s Wellbeing Project Manager at RSPH, said: “We are delighted to be announcing this project with Saints Foundation, LifeLab and Southampton City Council. It is a strong partnership working across different sectors, providing young people with the skills and knowledge to protect their own health and support the wellbeing of their peers.”