Gypsy and Traveller communities face some of the most severe health inequalities and their life expectancy is 10 to 25 years shorter than the general population. Young members of the community are more likely to drop out of education than their peers.
A lack of learning about personal health at a young age has an impact later in life. Many young Gypsies and Travellers begin work in trades and go on to develop musculoskeletal problems and health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, partly because they did not get key messages about healthy diets through school.
Friends Families and Travellers (FFT) had previously run successful programmes addressing health issues for the community and brought its health and youth teams together to look at what more it could do.
After speaking to families and children it found there was an appetite for a Health Champions training programme, where young people could earn a level 2 qualification, equivalent to GCSE.
Staff with lived experience adapted Royal Society for Public Health training so that it was accessible and culturally appropriate. Qualified trainers then used various learning techniques to engage with young people, including day trips and activities. One module was themed around the popular computer game Fortnite, and another around Harry Potter.
After completing the programme young people were observed making healthier choices, such as swapping Red Bull for water, and encouraging their peers to do the same.
The programme also helped to re-engage young people with formal learning and some have gone on to further study.
Sixteen young people took part in the programme. Eight achieved qualifications and all of them felt they better understood health and wellbeing after the training, and also enjoyed the experience. Five participants went on to further formal learning.
FFT is now working with two other Gypsy and Traveller charities, Leeds GATE and Herts GATE, to help them become accredited training centres. The programme could also be easily replicated for other marginalised groups and FFT is consulting with others about how this might work.
Awards judge Monica Brown said the charity had demonstrated its success in working with a community that is particularly hard to engage with, and the impact of its work would be huge and long-lasting. “It’s value for money, it’s working and it’s replicable,” she said.
CC Reg no. 1112326