North Yorkshire County Council is rolling out a new training programme designed to give staff and volunteers working for its partner organisations the skills and knowledge to have conversations about health with residents across the county.

Called ‘Making Every Contact Count’ (MECC), the programme is a national initiative, supported by North Yorkshire County Council and Public Health England. It encourages people from all backgrounds, including community and voluntary groups; health and social care staff; housing associations and district and borough councils, to take every opportunity to help residents make positive changes to their health.

More than 1000 County Council staff have already been trained in MECC, and the new training scheme for partner organisations marks the beginning of the second phase of the programme. MECC’s approach focuses on five key health topics: smoking, alcohol, mental wellbeing, physical activity and healthy eating. The new training scheme will equip people with the skills to initiate conversations with residents, offer advice, and suggest ways to seek further support, if requested.

“We know that 40% of all deaths are caused by the way we behave, such as smoking, drinking too much or not getting enough exercise,” said County Councillor David Chance, Executive Member for Stronger Communities and Public Health.

“Making small changes can have a huge impact on a person’s health. Making Every Contact Count is a nationally recognised, evidence-based approach which ensures that we, and our partner organisations, are taking every appropriate opportunity to give good quality health advice and support to our residents.”

Training sessions will run throughout 2017 and are free of charge for organisations in North Yorkshire. The programme takes a ‘train the trainer’ approach, meaning that people attending the sessions are expected to deliver further sessions in their communities or organisations. Resources and training materials are provided, and on-going support will be offered to ensure that the trainers are confident to deliver high quality training.

Social Marketing Gateway (SMG) will deliver the training programme on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council, funded by its Public Health grant. Dr Andy McArthur, Managing Director of SMG, is excited by the council’s initiative: “The County Council is moving its MECC programme to a new and ambitious level.  As more and more partner organisations get behind MECC and look to use the assets of their staff to help people stay healthy, then we really have a great opportunity to make a major impact on the health and wellbeing of communities across North Yorkshire.”

Organisations who take part in the training will benefit from having staff with improved skills in opening up health-based conversations, supported by an increased knowledge of key lifestyle messages and how to signpost people to further support. Organisations who are interested in attending the free of charge training, and are able to run subsequent training sessions, should contact Megan Christie at megan@smgateway.co.uk or  0141 387 7294.