Friday, July 19, 2024
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Peers help the community stay healthy

Navigating the health system can be challenging. To address this, Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) has established the Health and Wellbeing Peer Education program. The peer education program is a community-led project to promote health literacy and empower participants with a greater understanding and awareness of the local health system, and share this within their local community and neighbourhoods.

Local residents who participate are offered a series of workshops on a range of topics including drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues, oral health and nutrition. Those residents then share that knowledge with their community, either through workshops and town halls or lighter events such as trivia nights or community gatherings.

Phong Luu participated in the peer education program in October 2022 and has since helped organise events in the local neighbourhood to better equip his community with the knowledge to maintain and improve their health.

Phong took a particular interest in one topic that meant a lot to him, one he thought needed to be tackled in his community. “When I moved into the area, I really saw that there was quite a high rate of alcohol and drug use and I wanted to educate myself and better support others,” Phong said.

He attended an education session run by SLHD Drug Health Services explaining addiction and recovery. “I was getting anxiety from just witnessing it, so instead of being judgemental to the community I was able to run a workshop telling the community what I had learned.”

Phong also set up a community barbecue where he cooked healthy Vietnamese food for the local residents and got speakers to talk about healthy lifestyles.

Fiorella has also participated in the peer education program. She volunteers for many different charities in the area and had nothing but praise for the peer education program.

“The training was wonderfully laid out – a very good basic knowledge of every subject dealing with health,” she said. “It was very comprehensive. We looked at bloodborne diseases, mental health, oral health, eye health, nutrition – we covered just about everything. Understanding the health system from the national, state and local point of view – now that was a big one!”

Shane Brown, manager of District’s Waterloo Healthy Living program said the peer education program is a valuable way of getting the message of healthy living into communities.

“We value the work our peer educators do in enhancing the lives of the communities where they live,” he said. “A lot of work goes into selecting participants – those who are community minded, have great social networks and are respected by their peers.”

Keep an eye out for workshops or events run by peer educators in Waterloo in 2024. If you are interested in participating in the program, contact Shane by email: shane.brown1@health.nsw.gov.au/.

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Authorised by Dr Teresa Anderson AM, Chief Executive, Sydney Local Health District.

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