CHILDREN are leading the way to creating happy and healthy futures for their communities.

Young people in Barrow are doing their bit to try to address alarming health issues for the area which have led life expectancy for both men and women in Barrow being lower than the England average.

More than 250 Year Five pupils from six Barrow primary schools are involved in the Happy and Healthy Lifestyle Project - #iWill Make A Difference.

The year long scheme has been set up by the Furness Education and Skills Partnership in collaboration with the NHS, will aim to try to address concerning public health issues highlighted by Public Health England and Cumbria County Council. The project is part of the national Step Up To Serve Campaign, promoting youth social action.

The new health scheme was officially launched during an event at Furness College with the visiting primary schools.

The event was opened by GP Lauren Dixon who talked about health issues which have led to the present “life expectancy for both men and women in Barrow being lower than the England average”.

Some of the key priorities for Barrow include reducing smoking, reducing alcohol misuse and reducing obesity in children.

In Barrow there is the contrast between the most deprived areas of the town and the least deprived.

In 2015 the Office for National Statistics said life expectancy for men in Barrow borough was 77.1 years for men and and 81.5 years for women, compared to the England figures of 79.5 years and 83.5 years.

Children and their teachers took part in five interactive workshops in which they received important information to raise their awareness about some key health matters.

Workshop deliverer Nicky Guest from SAFA Cumbria, who dealt

with mental well-being and resilience said: "The children were very open to what the project is about and were very excited to learn and question about the topics I dealt with in my session.”

Other workshops delivered on the day focused on substance misuse, diet, exercise and making positive changes.

The children found the sessions informative saying it was "fun" and they "learnt a lot about staying fit". They enjoyed the healthy eating workshop and did not realise "how much rubbish goes into sausages”.

Caroline Vernon, co-founder of the FESP, said, “We in FESP are privileged to be working with the NHS and other healthcare professionals on

this new project and are excited to be part of the Step Up To Serve campaign. This is a much needed initiative to enable children to make informed decisions about their own and their families’ health. We are also very grateful to Furness College for hosting the launch and for their offer of support throughout the project.”

GP Arabella Onslow closed the event by focused on the project’s aim of trying to improve the well-being, both mental and physical, of the overall population of Barrow.

Dr Onslow said: “We in the NHS have tried things in the past, but they haven’t been as successful as we would have liked. Now we’d really like you, the young people of Barrow, to come up with ideas of how we can do better in the future.”

Brian Wood, executive officer for FESP said: “The next step in this year-long project will be for each of the schools to select a small research team. The teams from each school will meet as a large group during Step Up To Serve’s #iWill Week, from November 21 to 25, to decide how the project will move forward in the coming months. The

#iWill campaign is a UK-wide movement that aims to make involvement in social action, through fundraising, volunteering and campaigning, a normal part of life for 10 to 20-year-olds by the year 2020. Both the NHS and ourselves view the children as important change agents who have the potential over time to make a real difference to the health profile of the town.”

The organisations which took part in the launch event were: The Well, SAFA Cumbria, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, Cumbria CCG, Bridgegate Health Centre, Norwood Medical Centre, Dalton Medical Centre, Walney Wind-Cheetahs, Furness College Sports Department.

The schools taking part in this project are: Greengate Junior School, Ormsgill Primary School, South Walney Junior School, St Pius X Catholic Primary School, Victoria Academy and Chetwynde School.