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School Nurse Toolkit - Improving young people's health literacy by Emma Rigby

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Blogs, Getting it Right for Children and Young People, School Nursing

emma-rigbyThe Association for Young People's Health (AYPH) is pleased to launch a toolkit for school nurses, as part of Public Health England's school nurse team week of action.

The toolkit, produced with support from Public Health England, has been designed to help school nurses improve the health literacy of children and young people. It includes different approaches which can be used to influence commissioning priorities as well as to help young people.

So what is health literacy?

Its goal is to promote independence and empowerment rather than just convey information. WHO defined it as 'The motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health'.

It's vital for young people who are increasing their independence and becoming less reliant on parents and carers. It helps them make decisions about their own health and to access and use health services appropriately.

Confidentiality - one of the benefits of improving health literacy

Young people tell us that fear of confidential information being passed on is their main barrier to seeking help for health problems.  School nurses, who are seen as trusted health professionals, can offer a confidential service and make sure young people understand their rights.

School nurses can also take the initiative to address specific needs in their area.

“Working jointly with Hertfordshire County Council, we have developed a sexual health toolkit with local information for schools to use.”

Andrea Harrington, Strategic Lead and Operational Manager, School Nursing, Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust.

New ways of accessing health advice

Innovative ways of delivering health literacy are emerging, making health advice accessible to young people in and out of school.  'ChatHealth' - the virtual school nurse service developed in Leicestershire, won the NHS Innovation Challenge Prize in 2015. A total of 50 NHS Trusts have expressed an interest in buying a licence to use it in their areas.

It has provided many benefits to young people, including:

- Improved choice on when and how to access confidential help and advice

- Overcoming stigma, with half of all contacts beginning anonymously

- Breaking down social barriers and doubling the uptake from young men seeking advice.

Young people and their families

School nurses are in an excellent position to highlight the range of places to get advice and help, to both children and young people as well as their families.

In 2014-15 1.9 million 10-18 year olds attended hospital Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments. Although this age group isn't the biggest user of A&E, some of their health problems might have been better treated in minor injury units, by the school nurse, the GP, or at a pharmacy.  Health literacy helps young people and their families make the best choices about the most suitable options.

Health inequalities

School nurses already contribute to the wider public health agenda of reducing health inequalities and have a vital role to play in reaching the vulnerable and marginalised.

“We attend large public health events with partner agencies called ‘Crucial Crew’ aimed at all year 6 children.  This is a great opportunity to raise school nursing profile at the key transition stage but also to deliver key public health messages.”

Kirsten Ellmore, School Nurse team leader, Shropshire

The toolkit can be downloaded at

Emma Rigby, Chief Executive, Association for Young People’s Health

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