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A young girl studies a tablet screen at a table

Inspiring young people to make positive lifestyle choices

Published: 3 March 2022

LifeLab is a Southampton education initiative designed to increase health literacy among the young so that they can make positive lifestyle decisions.

It teaches school children about non communicable diseases and usually takes place in a hospital or school setting.

It looks at the science behind the health messages young people are exposed to in everyday life and gives them hands-on activities to spark interest in their own health and wellbeing.

School pupils wearing goggles and gloves experimenting in lab
School children carry out science experiments at LifeLab

Programme lead for LifeLab, Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend, had to consider the implications when the pandemic hit:

“The emergence of COVID-19 immediately got us thinking about what support young people need to face this new challenge, and how best we could get it to them in a locked-down society.”

Understanding the impact of COVID-19

The outcome was that LifeLab experts in Education and Medicine worked with a group of teenagers to find out how the pandemic was affecting their lives, and what could help them.

The collaboration involved online focus groups to ask about their experiences. They also kept social media diaries and completed assessments of their diet, physical activity, mental health and wellbeing.

Using this information Dr Woods-Townsend and colleagues developed and adapted activities to address their needs, including:

  • making LifeLab available online
  • developing new COVID-19 content
  • making #ForOurFutures packs 
  • creating escape room themed lessons
  • developing saliva testing and public health campaign engagement sessions

After trying an activity one parent said it had inspired her daughter to enrol on a range of courses:

“She signed up for an online course about the extended project qualification, is doing garden gym and has joined an online orchestra. She has a spring in her step again. The resources are awesome.”

An outcome of moving LifeLab online is that more young people from further afield can access the activities. Participants from Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Turkey joined the 2020 summer school - a LifeLab first.

Find out more by visiting the LifeLab website.

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