2015-03-24_5511bb1f2d593_image.jpgChanging young people’s behavior and encouraging health life styles can seem like a challenge and if not pitched just a the right level can have little effect. Messaging for children and young people needs to be delivered in formats that they want to engage with – so we were approached by the Department of Health to work with school nurses to look at using our digital badges to get public health messages out to children and young people.

Digital badges, perhaps could best be described as being similar to brownie or cubs / scout badges – but digital! We know younger children just love to collect things and for older children / young people the badges offer an opportunity to show achievements. The badge missions encourage the development of positive health skills in a fun way using the technologies that young people love to use to communicate. Digital Badges also offer a new way to value and recognise health skills and behaviours.

Two year’s ago the Department of Health ran a School Nursing workshop exploring ways that safe online social tools could be used to enable positive health messages to reach more children and young people. The co-production workshop brought together school nurses and young people to develop ideas and work together on content – we wanted to ensure the badges worked for young people, school nurses and teachers.

Working in partnership with Makewaves, the safe schools social network of 70,000 children and young people, 10,000 teachers and 3,500 schools, school nurses worked with teachers and young people to develop a series of online ‘Badge Missions’ around 2015-03-24_5511bb1f2dcf9_image.jpgkey public health themes. A badge mission delivers a series of challenges to students in a fun and interesting format. Students can then respond by submitting their own blogs, films, pictures or podcasts as evidence to show their skills, learning or health tips and qualities in order to earn the badge.

Digital Badges developed by School Nurses, teachers and young people can now be awarded to children and young people in schools and youth groups. This idea of a ‘safe youtube’, and the potential of peer creation and sharing of health messaging by young people came through strongly in the School Nurse social media workshop. It was seen as a strong and effective way forward when approaching early intervention and prevention with children and young people.

This film https://www.makewav.es/story/773399/title/knowyourhealthearnthebadges) shows the badges in action, and students’ responses to them. The badges all focus on key public health issues, the first set of badges to launch included the Stress Buster badge, Me and My Teeth, Flu Fighter, Know My School Nurse and Health Champion.

Badges currently in development include the following themes: healthy relationships (including sexual health), healthy weight, smoking cessation, dementia friendly and mental health.

If you would like to work with children and young people in your area to earn these badges, enable your school nurses and schools to use these badges or feed in to the development of the new badges you can do this by contacting Sharon Middleton at Makewaves – [email protected]

Find out more about the badges at www.makewav.es/health and www.makewav.es/nhs where you can view films of young people earning and creating the badges. We are piloting these badges and working in partnership with school nurses with the aim of inspiring change in young people’s health behaviours. Whether you are a young person, a teacher, a school nurse, or a youth group leader, we want everyone to join us and help build the momentum behind these potentially revolutionary badges.

If you would like to make use of these badges in your area, you can now and we would encourage school nurses to use the badges to promote public health messaging in a fun, creative way. Submitted by Sharon Middleton makewav.es and Wendy Nicholson

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