Health Hackathon: How WSLHD’s PERU team are empowering youth

Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU) recently hosted its second ‘Health Hackathon’ at Westmead, inviting students from across western Sydney to attend the two-day event.

Held in collaboration with the Regional Industry Education Partnerships (RIEP) Program at the NSW Department of Education and NSW Health, the Health Hackathon provided students with a platform to develop campaigns addressing key health issues, presenting these ideas to industry leaders.

With attendance from 35 students from four high schools, the event aimed to empower youth to understand health issues and enable them to share key prevention messages with their peers.

Professor Smita Shah OAM, PERU Director, highlighted the importance of the RIEP partnership.

“This initiative engages students to address a health issue that matters to them, developing youth led solutions.”

“It also provides a unique opportunity to learn about the diversity of future health careers.”

The format is an excellent platform for building health literacy and advocacy, while also inspiring students to consider future health careers.

Professor Smita Shah OAM

Christine Assanti, Senior Project Officer RIEP, reiterated the importance of empowering youth voices.

“Empowering student voices to share positive health messages is the best way to ensure the right information is spread,” Christine said.

“It is heartening to see the creativity and concern for each other expressed during the hackathon.”

“Based on the enthusiasm shown by students, we are exploring broader partnerships with our stakeholders to implement the ideas created by the participants and to continue their exposure to the health industry.”

Experts in social marketing, communication, public health and gamification shared insights on developing a health campaign, with students using this guidance to identify health issues important to them, such as mental health, the physical risks of cosmetics, damage from electronic device overuse, online bullying and vaping.

Each group then developed and presented a pitch for a social marketing campaign to address their chosen topic.

The winning project ‘Digital Detox’ aimed to address electronic addiction and its impact on eyesight and hearing.

The team launched an Instagram page, DigitalDetoxYouth, and designed a logo to post awareness messages and short videos, hypothesising that as the campaign gains traction, technology addiction rates will decrease, mental health outcomes will improve, and participation in other social activities will increase.

Farah Irani, NSW Ministry of Health Manager Strategic Workforce Planning highlighted the value of  the Health Hackathon.

“This event exemplifies health and education working together to build skills and insights into the health industry, showing youth a pathway to a career and empowering action to address health issues.”

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