Inspiring western Sydney high school students to lead and develop health actions in their schools

Students from five western Sydney high schools: Blacktown Girls, Erskine Park, Malek Fahd Islamic College, Rooty Hill and Rouse Hill, united in the name of health and leadership on Friday, 9 September 2022 at the award-winning Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Students as Lifestyle Activists (SALSA) program’s Youth Voices Leadership workshop.

Students engaged in interactive games and activities, including a AFL session run by Omar Elrayes from the Greater Western Sydney Giants and were inspired by former Australian cricketer Gavin Robertson who spoke about how appreciation for success only comes by embracing failures along the way.

SALSA Youth Voices is an extension of the SALSA program and aims to build the leadership and advocacy skills of SALSA Peer Leaders to empower them to design a health promoting action that addresses healthy eating or increased physical activity in their school community. The program uses a strength-based approach and aims to further build leadership, communication and teamwork skills in students.

SALSA co-founder Clinical Professor Smita Shah said the students have the solutions and agency to make a difference in their school communities.

The students know the issues and have the capacity to add to a supportive school environment to increase healthy eating and physical activity,” said Smita.

“The student plans which identified barriers to eating healthy, including junk food promotions, show innovation, from revamping a school gym to increase accessibility for all students to running a breakfast for champions initiative.

“One student on the day commented that “junk food is more accessible in western Sydney than healthy foods and are made to look so good and appealing with games such as Monopoly”.”

The workshop was run by Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU), supported and hosted by the NSW Department of Education’s Student and Experience team and included collaboration with The University of Sydney, high schools, the GWS Giants, Western Sydney Primary Health Network, and the Mount Druitt, Blacktown and Hills Medical Practitioners Associations.

Step two is SALSA Youth Voices Action Day, where students present either their implemented actions or their plans in further detail.

Further information about the SALSA program can be found on the SALSA website. To read more about the SALSA Youth Voices Leadership workshop program, click here.