Kent is often seen as the ‘Garden of England’; a genteel place with few social problems. But a culture of young people taking severe risks with their health unfortunately exists in some towns. A new initiative was needed to help reduce alcohol misuse, smoking and risky sexual behaviour in teenagers.
Health wasn’t a major priority for local young people – having fun was. And research has proven time and time again that finger-wagging ‘health campaigns’ just don’t work.
We took health services for young people out of ‘boring’ settings and into a fun place: a new pop up youth hub – ‘HOUSE’. It provided the look and feel of a mate’s house and offered a range of entertaining activities. HOUSE allowed young people to feel safe and comfortable, resulting in a willingness to talk about sensitive health and social issues.
In the first year, 12,000 young people checked in with 1,200 attending drugs and alcohol education sessions. Nearly 9 in 10 who attended sessions said they would reconsider taking drugs or getting involved in violence. Over 1,000 saw the sexual health nurse, had a chlamydia test or signed up for free condoms.