Background: Australian adolescents are a relatively under-served group in the provision of nutrition/physical activity programs targeting obesity and chronic disease prevention. SALSA (Students as LifeStyle Activists) is an award-winning, peer-led, high school-based program that addresses this service gap. Cost evaluations of such programs are scarce but would assist in effectively advocating for this group in future divisions of prevention budgets.
Aim: To determine the cost of implementing the SALSA program per school and Year 8 student based on SALSA program records from 2014.
Methods: In 2014, the SALSA program involved five SALSA Champions (i.e. SALSA personnel, volunteer teachers and general practitioners) running a one-day SALSA Educator training workshop for two groups of volunteer university students from Health/Education faculties (n=40). At each recruited school (n=13), four Educators led a one-day Peer Leader (PL) training workshop for volunteer/selected Year 10 students (n=352). In small groups, these PLs delivered four 75-minute healthy lifestyle lessons to Year 8 peers (n=1,928) during Personal Development, Health and Physical Education classes. Standard economic costing methods were used to quantify and value program inputs using 2014 market rates. Cost-bearing inputs included: SALSA personnel salaries to recruit schools and implement the program, workshop catering, PL manuals and incidentals. A sensitivity analysis incorporated opportunity costs for additional inputs i.e. reimbursement for volunteer Champion and Educators’ time, schools’ provision of one relief teacher per PL workshop and Educator workshop venue hire.
Results: The average cost of implementing the SALSA program in 2014 was $1,358 per school or $9.16 per Year 8 student. Including opportunity costs these values increase to $2,458 and $16.57, respectively.
Conclusion: Given Australia’s high prevalence of overweight/obesity costs the nation over $20 billion annually, it is a relatively small outlay required per Year 8 student to deliver the SALSA program.