How health 'pals' who turned their lives around are helping others in South Tyneside do the same
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The army of recruits will use their own experience to give help and encouragement with quitting smoking, healthy weight loss, fight back from heart attacks, tackle aches and pains or cope with Long Covid.
Health leaders in South Tyneside are now calling on people who have made healthy lifestyle changes to sign up as volunteers.
An earlier initiative focused on smoking was paused due to the pressures of the pandemic, but organisers have now widened the scheme to help with a broader range of issues.
Among those already helping is Lauren, a personal trainer, who became a peer pal after successfully losing 53 pounds in weight.
She said: "I know what it’s like trying to lose weight but feeling like you're on your own. Thankfully I found a love for the gym and weightlifting that helped me create a healthier relationship with food and exercise.
"Having support makes it much less scary so I know I can help others in the same situation.”
"I find it so rewarding supporting people and using my knowledge to help them. It’s boosted my confidence and improved my mental health.
She added: "I’d really recommend signing up as a peer pal if you have experience in any of the conditions we support."
Scheme coordinator Niki Marshall said: "No one understands how to make changes better than someone who has been there, done it and faced the same challenges.
"You can make a real difference in just a few minutes a week, and it's a rewarding experience too."
Peer pals are supported by Inspire South Tyneside, the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, and South Tyneside Council.
Dr Dave Julien of North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board said: "There's so much more to good health than making an appointment with your GP. We're constantly working to enhance our health services in South Tyneside, but the peer pals show that small steps make a big difference in our own lives."
To find out more, contact Niki Marshall on 07719 078 077 or email [email protected].