Healthy Havering: Community project trains 515 volunteers to become Health Champions

L-R: Sharon Adkins project coordinator, Andrew Longhurtst campaign volunteer, Lesley Davey Tesco Com

L-R: Sharon Adkins project coordinator, Andrew Longhurtst campaign volunteer, Lesley Davey Tesco Community Champion, Aloma White campaign volunteer, Debbie Bailey heath awareness officer and Ruth Edwards campaign volunteer at a recent event by the My Health Matters project at Tesco Roneo Corner promoting good heart health. Picture: Sharon Adkins. - Credit: Archant

A community project that trains Havering residents to become Health Champions has seen the applicants successfully adopt healthier lifestyles.

A presentation lunch by the My Health Matters community project in July, which trains Havering resid

A presentation lunch by the My Health Matters community project in July, which trains Havering residents to become Health Champions. - Credit: Archant

Obesity related hospital admissions in Havering soared over the past three years, so the Recorder has started a Healthy Havering Campaign where we feature various sports, activities and opportunities for residents to learn more about adopting a healthy lifestyle.

My Health Matters, a community health project commissioned by Public Health Havering, has trained a total of 515 Health Champions since it began four years ago.

Sharon Adkins, project coordinator told the Recorder: “The aim is to reduce health inequalities of adults within Havering by raising health awareness, encouraging positive lifestyle changes and signposting to local health services.

“The purpose of the role is not to give advice but to encourage friends, neighbours, work colleagues and anyone you come into contact with during daily life to lead healthier, more active lifestyles and to be able to signpost them to local health organisations and support groups where appropriate, using the health directory devised by the team.”

Applicants to become a Health Champion are required to attend and successfully complete a training course which takes place over a full day at the Town Hall in Romford.

Sharla Gupta from Hornchurch is a senior carer and the nominated Health Champion at her place of work.

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Since the training and qualifying in July, she has significantly reduced her smoking, runs every day and swims twice a week.

The training is free, accredited by the Royal Public Society for Public Health (RSPH) and leads to a QCA Level 2 award in Understanding Health Improvement.

“Once qualified, ongoing support is given, along with the opportunity to attend local Focus groups to give feedback, share ideas and meet other Health Champions,” said Sharon.

“We then offer additional free training modules on a variety of health-related subjects including, Nutrition for Health, Diabetes Awareness, Physical Activity, Cancer Awareness and Mental Health Awareness which takes place throughout the year.”

As a nutritionist, Sharon recommends the Eatwell Guide as one of the best resources to show a healthy, balanced diet.

She also recommends ensuring that people ensure that any health advice they use, is up to date and comes from a reliable choice, such as the NHS Choices website.

The training has attracted community members from all walks of life including volunteers, library staff, NHS staff, councillors and people from the education centre.

Anybody over the age of 18, who is a Havering resident, employee or volunteer can apply.

Irene Andrews from Elm Park is a great-grandmother who attended a Physical Activity & Diabetes Awareness training and a Cycle Confident Class, which is a free borough service.

After qualifying in March, she has purchased a bike and cycles regularly to increase her joint mobility.

Sharon added: “Health Champions are also recruited from outreach events, working with our community partners, workplace wellbeing and via recommendations.

“We also have an elite band of 18 Campaign Volunteers who attend events alongside us and promote the project as well as signposting people to relevant services in the borough.

“In addition, we have recently been working with GP practices offering workshops to identified patients on selected health topics, including diabetes prevention, cancer awareness and physical activity all resulting in very positive feedback.”

Frank Pilinksi from Upminster qualified in April and also attended Cancer Awareness, Physical Activity & Diabetes Awareness training.

As a community volunteer, Frank reported weight loss, increased physical activity, sugar intake reduction and has become a campaign volunteer.

Originally set up by Havering Council in 2014, the project was out-sourced to Tapestry’s My Health Matters team a year later.

“The project team are also qualified RSPH trainers and complete the circle of recruitment, training and ongoing engagement, encouraging Health Champions to give feedback on lifestyle changes - many have reported weight loss, increased physical activity and smoking cessation,” said Sharon.

To find out more information about the project call 01708 79660 or contact