Anglia Ruskin Health Partnership, Active Essex, Essex County Council, and ORCHA came together recognising the need to develop a different model of health care delivery for a new digitally active generation; one that embeds a pro-active approach to ‘looking after your own health from an early age’.

The Digitally Healthy Schools Programme is a direct response to increasing levels of concern about health outcomes for young people; particularly around mental health, sexual health and identity, and underlying determinants of health such as diet, weight and exercise.

Having initially scoped the programme for 5 schools, intense interest meant that roll out was extended to include 5 secondary schools and 6 primary schools in Essex. The project is looking at how digital solutions may offer a different and more accessible route into tackling these areas of concern amongst this traditionally difficult to engage demographic. Specifically, it is exploring the potential opportunity to use health apps in schools to improve the health and wellbeing of young people.

A key, and invaluable, outcome of this project will be the wider understanding of what motivates or switches off young people to use apps as part of how they look after themselves, and how they use the apps that they download. A planned by-product, however, will be any ‘halo’ effect that extends through families and the wider communities of those students involved; demonstrating if there is a greater take up of health apps wider than the project group.

In taking this opportunity to stimulate wider population take-up of digital health aides through targeting young people, this project will also develop transferable learning for the local health and care system about how to use digital technology – effectively – as an embedded part of the care process.

Implementation will be finished and evaluated by the end of the 2016/17 academic year. At that stage, a report will be produced that will extrapolate and articulate key learning and lessons to inform the wider health and education systems as they consider whether there is a case to be made for mainstreaming this approach at scale.

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