Army learning programme wins award

18 November 2011

A NIACE-supported Army programme which reduces inequalities in health by helping to improve the literacy, language and numeracy skills of adults, has won the Military-Civilian Health Partnership Awards for Health Improvement and Promotion.

Together with Wiltshire Primary Care Trust (PCT), Army Primary Healthcare Services and other partners, the Army Skilled for Health – Healthy Families programme works with and supports the families of Servicemen and women through a series of short courses; helping and encouraging them to improve their confidence and self esteem, to access further education and to find work. The courses focus on issues relevant to the local families and community such as stopping smoking, healthy eating and fitness, reducing stress, and child development. The broad programme tailored especially for Army Garrison settings encourages the development of strong and healthy communities, particularly as it has been attracting civilian as well as military families since 2009.

Evaluation of the programme has shown significant improvements in healthy lifestyles amongst those families who have participated. In one local medical practice alone, 70% of learners made fewer visits to their GP, after their Skilled for Health experience.

During 2008-11, the programme has attracted 472 family members of which well over half of them (61%) have signed up as Skilled for Health learners. Of these learners, 80% have completed the courses Рa higher retention rate than similar programmes run across the country Рand many have signed up for a second or extended programme. In addition to these learners, 267 of their children have benefited from attendance at free cr̬ches, organised locally within the Skilled for Health programme.

Since attending the programme, learners from all four participating Garrisons have taken up further learning opportunities such as Skills for Life literacy and numeracy courses, organised through the local Army Education Centres and FE colleges. Some learners have been recruited by the Wiltshire PCT to take a City & Guilds course in health training and now work in the community, offering free Skilled for Health sessions to anyone wishing to make lifestyle changes. Others have been employed on a pilot scheme with Modern Housing Solutions in Larkhill Garrison and one learner is now the Learning Champion for the local Tesco store in Tidworth, working with charities, businesses and voluntary organisations promoting and supporting them and their fund raising work.

Martin Rose, NIACE Programme Manager working on secondment to the Army’s Directorate of Educational & Training Services, said:

“The Army’s Skilled for Health programme is translating theory into practice in so many ways. Getting parents into learning, helping them develop new skills they know will be useful to them, discovering potential they never thought they had, and for some Army wives, providing the stepping stones into new jobs and opportunities. What’s more, it’s been a joint community effort from the start. Still growing, this programme is showing what genuine partnership working can deliver on the ground.”

The Army Skilled for Health – Healthy Families programme was piloted in 2007 and the first programme was launched in 2008 in Tidworth and Bulford Garrisons on Salisbury Plain. Building on its early success, it was extended to the neighbouring Larkhill and Warminster Garrisons in 2009. The programme has also won the 2011 Wiltshire Assembly Health and Wellbeing Award for its work tackling health inequalities.