SALSA Youth Voices (SYV) is a novel extension of the Students As LifeStyle Activists (SALSA) program designed for high school students to have an active role in creating a supportive school environment to increase physical activity and improve diet. The intervention is a unique coalition of health, education, and sport communities who have strong investments to promote health in young people in Western Sydney. The School Action Plans are supported by the Mt Druitt, Blacktown and Hills Doctors Associations.
The aim of the SYV is to provide a platform for student advocacy and agency, filling a socioeconomic equity gap. SYV uses a strengths-based approach, drawing on and further developing the leadership skills of the SALSA Peer Leaders to actively engage the school community in healthy eating and physical activity programs. Students’ participation was linked to student outcomes for Stage 5 of the NSW Department of Education subject Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) and to the NSW Health Strategic Planning Framework (NSW Health) .
In 2019, two SYV Leadership Day workshops were conducted in Term 3 at GWS Giant’s Learning Life Centre, Sydney Olympic Park. Eighty-four SALSA Peer Leaders from seven Western Sydney high schools attended. All participating schools in SYV Leadership Day attended and presented their actions at the Youth Voices Action Day, indicating schools consider it an important leadership opportunity for students in Western Sydney
The interventions developed by the peer leaders in 2019 were highly commendable and had the potential to impact on current and future students. Giving peer leaders ownership of the design and implementation of the interventions showed that these changes resulted in significant reach that benefited whole school communities. Impressively, the interventions required peer leaders to build advanced skills including scoping the issue with other students at their school (needs assessment), developing the intervention (design), determining the cost (budget), engaging appropriate stake holders (e.g. Principal, P&C) and, sourcing external service providers.