Jean was overweight and battling with a number of health problems when her doctor referred her to see a health trainer.
The Health Trainer Service supports people to change their behaviours in a range of areas, such as alcohol consumption, weight loss, healthy eating and smoking. Health Trainers are based at a number of community locations around the county in areas where significant health inequalities exist, such as Hailsham, Bexhill Sackville and Peacehaven, where life expectancy is over 10 years lower than some other areas in the county.

Support from health trainers

Jean from Bexhill-on-Sea, had reached 30 stone and was in a wheelchair when she joined the programme last year. She said: “I used to be a busy, healthy nurse but because of things that happened in my life I’d become depressed and I was also suffering from diabetes, chronic arthritis, chronic fatigue and I couldn’t walk. Seeing a health trainer was such a wonderful experience. It was like talking to a best friend who was helpful, empathetic and encouraging.

“I learnt so much about nutrition and kept a food diary, which helped to see where I could make improvements. Since seeing the health trainer last year, my self-confidence has improved, I’ve lost weight and I’m walking again now. Not only that, but I also go to the gym three times a week. It was such an uplifting experience.”

Carrie, from Eastbourne tried to motivate herself to go to the gym and lose weight through slimming clubs , but found they were not flexible enough for her. So, she decided to give the health trainer service a go.

“What’s been great is that the health trainer works around my schedule and I’ve been given lots of advice on activities, such as lovely places to walk in East Sussex. I’ve also been given details of the calories I’ve burnt, which is so useful to see it all in black and white. I’ve found they don’t just deal with weight loss, they’ve helped me with a whole lifestyle change in easy steps to manage. It’s helped me so much,” Carrie said.

Setting up the service

Five years ago Clare Ledwith, East Sussex Health Trainer Service Manager, helped to set up the service in the west of the county, in areas where they were needed most. She then recruited people from those areas to become health trainers. Not only are the clients helped, but the health trainers themselves have often been out of work for a long time, so they are given the opportunity to start a new career. The service is now available across the county in areas where people are likely to need it most.

Clare says: “The idea behind health trainers is that they’re local people who are given opportunities to get qualifications and jobs which help people in their communities get healthier. They spend six months studying at college, and then work at a grass roots level helping people to make changes to their lifestyles. We work with people to find out exactly what they want that will be empowering and enabling, and so far we have helped almost 1,000 people in East Sussex. We’ve noticed it makes a huge difference to people’s lives”.

For more information on the health trainer service and how you can access it, telephone 08009178896, visit or talk to your GP.