The Students As LifeStyle Activists (SALSA) is a peer educational, leadership program designed to motivate high school students to increase physical activity, improve diet and lead a healthier lifestyle. The program uses a series of structured lessons that train SALSA Peer Leaders from Year 10 to deliver to Year 8 students. It involves trained university students, Year 10 students and Year 8 students in an educational three-step process:
SALSA Educators (university students) train volunteer Year 10 students to be SALSA Peer Leaders for the program, during a one-day workshop.
The peer leaders learn about nutrition and physical activity and acquire skills in group facilitation and leadership.
Peer leaders deliver four lessons to Year 8 students using the peer leader’s manual as a guide.
Students learn about nutrition and physical activity through videos, games and activities and are guided by the Peer Leaders to critically analyse the barriers to living a healthy lifestyle.
Wider dissemination of healthy lifestyle information occurs when students from the Year 8 classes develop a personal goal and a school action plan.
The program uses a variety of strategies including a video, games, role-playing and a quiz show, with participation and fun central to all aspects of learning. The program materials and delivery of the four lessons by the SALSA Year 10 Peer Leaders to Year 8 students are standardised through the use of structured lessons using the Peer Leaders Manual and other provided resources.
Quarterly newsletters are sent to the school containing program updates, health tips, recipes and snippets to share in school newsletters and on social media pages.
The SALSA program is being trialled in Ho Chi Minh City under the project “Healthier Lifestyles through a peer-education and peer-support system: a school-based pilot project in adolescents”. The project has been funded by the UK Medical Research Council.
The SALSA project was also rolled out and evaluated in Jordan under the project “the efficacy of a school-based, peer-led educational program in improving nutritional intake and physical activity behaviours among adolescents in Northern Jordan”. The project was funded by the Deanship of Scientific Research.
The SALSA Peer Leader’s manual was translated into Arabic and Vietnamese for high schools in Jordan and Vietnam.
It was also trialled in China in 2012 with encouraging results – read the journal article.