Western Sydney health program goes to Vietnam

A/Prof Smita Shah with the students in Vietnam.

An award-winning student lifestyle program developed right here in western Sydney is being trialed in Vietnam.

Western Sydney Local Health District’s Students as Lifestyle Activists program (SALSA) is a peer education program that motivates high school students to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

SALSA sees university students coaching high school students, empowering them to share healthy messages with their peers.

In January this year, our very own Professor Smith Shah was invited to train 25 Vietnamese Medical and Public Health University students as SALSA educators.

The visit was funded by the UK Medical Research Council to adapt and undertake a feasibility study of implementing SALSA in Vietnam.

Professor Shah said the visit was a huge success.

“It was exciting and gratifying to see that what we have developed locally in western Sydney is now being trialed in Vietnam,” Professor Shah said.

“The students loved the activities including the ultimate frisbee game, which they never played before.”

It’s not the first time SALSA has been taken overseas, with trials already undertaken in Jordan and China.

The program has been cited by the United Nations Inter agency Technical Task Team on Young People as a good practice in adolescent and youth programs in the Middle East and Africa.

The program aligns with the World Health Organisation’s health promoting schools framework.

In 2017, SALSA trained 77 university students who visited 23 high schools in western Sydney. University students trained 549 SALSA Peer Leaders who educated more than 2,700 junior students.

The students participating in one of the activities