Year four of our 10-year Action Agenda for Health Promotion has brought a range of new opportunities to advance the VicHealth vision of: One million more Victorians with better health and wellbeing by 2023.
For 30 years, VicHealth has been a pioneer in health promotion with a unique role within Victoria to keep people healthy, happy and well – preventing chronic disease and keeping people out of the medical system. Our work provides individuals, groups and organisations with the latest evidence-based information and advice to make decisions which support the health of all Victorians. We understand how changes in the environment can promote health, and draw on practices that ensure we achieve the best outcomes for those who need it most. Our aim is that every Victorian, no matter their situation or resources, has the best chance for good health and wellbeing.
VicHealth is committed to five strategic imperatives that have the greatest potential to reduce disease burden and bring about the greatest measurable health gains. These are: promoting healthy eating, encouraging regular physical activity, preventing tobacco use, preventing harm from alcohol and improving mental wellbeing.
We continue to apply the VicHealth framework for health equity, Fair Foundations, to our work, recognising that good health is not distributed evenly in the community. People with low incomes, limited education or unskilled occupations, those from culturally diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal people, women, people with a disability and LGBTI communities often experience poorer health than the rest of the population. To reduce health inequities experienced by these groups, we work to address the underlying drivers of health and wellbeing and the social processes that distribute them unequally across society.
Innovation has always been part of our DNA. To us, innovation means discovering how to accelerate better health and wellbeing outcomes for Victorians, pinpointing the strategies, approaches, insights and collaborations that can fast-track our aim to create healthier lives. Innovation is embedded in our operating model, organisation structure, processes and reporting, funding criteria and systems. We value it as an essential business practice that keeps us delivering better outcomes.
Despite ongoing and emerging health challenges, positive new developments in VicHealth’s operating environment will help us deliver better health and wellbeing impacts for Victorians.
This year, we were pleased to partner with the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality to hold three ‘Prevention is Possible’ forums. The forums aimed to inform and build capacity for policy makers at all levels of government and the community to implement the Victorian Government’s new strategy and help create a future free from family violence.
Over the last decade, VicHealth has used a public health approach to invest in the primary prevention of violence against women. We have worked with partners from a range of sectors to build policy, undertake research and implement programs that promote equal and respectful relationships between men and women. We are now working to ensure that our collective body of knowledge is used to inform the work of a growing number of organisations committed to preventing violence against women.
As the sector has grown and flourished, VicHealth has broadened its focus to consider the relationship between gender equality and health and wellbeing. VicHealth’s Changing our Game program seeks to advance gender equality in sport for women and girls. Through the program, we continue to support the recommendations from the Victorian Government’s Women in Sport and Active Recreation taskforce, and align with the Government’s Gender Equality Strategy and women and girls in sport initiative.
Over the year, we worked with both new and longstanding partners to find innovative solutions to collectively tackle complex health and wellbeing challenges. VicHealth plays a critical role in bringing together diverse groups and organisations. This includes all levels of government, as well as groups and individuals working in health, sports, research, education, the arts, health promotion, the media and local communities.
We hosted the 16th Annual International Network of Health Promotion Foundations (INHPF) General Meeting, attended by health promotion leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region to share expertise and the latest research developments. As part of our role as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Leadership in Health Promotion, we were proud to present VicHealth as a model of a successful health promotion foundation for other countries in the Western Pacific region to follow.
Together with the World Health Organization, the International Network of Health Promotion Foundations, CSIRO and the Melbourne School of Global and Population Health, we convened the Destination Wellbeing forum. The forum’s objective was to refine global and local priorities and to prompt a new wave of health promotion research.
We were honoured to be invited to participate in the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion in Shanghai. The Conference, which culminated in the Shanghai Declaration, focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and the key role health promotion can play in achieving them.
Similar themes emerged at the 15th World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne, where we were delighted to present a range of research findings, as well as taking part in celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the World Federation of Public Health Associations and hosting a Salt Reduction Breakfast Forum.
The Congress also gave us a great opportunity to celebrate VicHealth’s 30th anniversary with a number of our key local and international stakeholders, including WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo.
We organised the first Kids Camp Out at Government House. Children from Sunshine North Primary School camped out in tents as part of a program to encourage them to lead active lives and have the confidence to try new experiences. The overnight camp was hosted by VicHealth’s Patron-in-Chief the Hon. Linda Dessau AC and her husband, Mr Anthony Howard QC. The grade 5 and 6 children took part in activities with a focus on fitness, fun and healthy eating as we look to a future where all Victorians are more active and better equipped to make healthy food choices.
Our Leading Thinkers initiative continues to open up exciting new ways to address the entrenched beliefs and behaviours that shape our culture. Professor Iris Bohnet and Dr Jeni Klugman from the Harvard Kennedy School have taken up our second Leading Thinkers residency and will be working with us over the next three years. Building on the behavioural insights approach used by our inaugural Leading Thinker Dr David Halpern, who worked on obesity, Professor Bohnet and Dr Klugman will focus on gender equality. They are starting with two trials: the first, on gender bias in recruitment, has been incorporated into the Victorian Government’s RecruitSmarter project. The second trial will use data analysis to look at women’s profile in media, particularly in sport.
We continued to invest in women’s sport and active recreation through the #ChangeOurGame campaign launched by Minister Hennessy, and Active Club Grants funding that prioritised clubs wanting to offer more opportunities for women and girls.
We also partnered with the Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades cricket teams for the second Women’s Big Bash League, and with Carlton, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne football clubs for the inaugural AFL Women’s season.
Funding to Cancer Council Victoria for the Quit Program continues to be our largest and longest-standing investment. Through this effective program and its impactful anti-smoking campaigns, we support delivery of a comprehensive and integrated approach to reducing harms from tobacco across Victoria.
We continued our work to address the health inequities experienced by the people living in the Latrobe Valley in our role delivering on the recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry Report. Through our involvement with the Latrobe Health Assembly, we are supporting community actions and working with service providers to tackle the social determinants of health in the area.
We launched our updated Action Agenda, which will give us greater confidence to tackle health challenges and to further build our distinctive capabilities as a leader in health promotion. As we progress towards our goals, VicHealth will focus our efforts on three critical areas, where the underlying drivers of health often intersect: gender, youth and community.
These highlights are but a small sample of the many initiatives and projects on which VicHealth has worked in 2016–17. We have collaborated with organisations across the State and the knowledge we have generated has been extended through our many partners and their networks.
I would like to thank each and every member of the VicHealth team for their ongoing enthusiasm and dedication to achieving our goals. Their willingness to adapt and approach problems in new ways allows us to tread an innovative path that accelerates health outcomes for Victorians.
Thank you, too, to all VicHealth’s partners and supporters including our colleagues across the Victorian Government and the local government, community and corporate partners with whom we have worked to achieve our common goals.
Our Board has continued to provide me with expert leadership and support. I acknowledge and thank our past Chair, Emeritus Prof. John Catford, for his expertise and guidance during his last two years as Chair and two years as Deputy Chair. VicHealth warmly welcomed Fiona McCormack as the new VicHealth Chair in October 2016. We have already benefited from the direction and insight Fiona brings through her extensive expertise in health and illness prevention, and her many years leading community change.
I particularly wish to thank the Victorian Minister for Health, The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, for her support and leadership. I also thank the Minister for Mental Health, The Hon. Martin Foley MP, the Minister for Sport, The Hon. John Eren MP and other ministers and their advisers for their guidance and support.
I also wish to pay my respect and gratitude and express my deep sadness at the recent passing of The Hon. Fiona Richardson MP, Minister for Women and Prevention of Family Violence. The first Victorian Minister for Family Violence, Fiona achieved so much to advance this important cause, including overseeing the Royal Commission into Family Violence and developing the state’s first prevention and gender equality strategies. Fiona touched the lives of so many in our community and she will be deeply missed.
As we celebrate our 30th anniversary and reflect on all that VicHealth has achieved, I am excited about our future. VicHealth has already truly established itself as a health promotion foundation with an international reputation for innovative, evidence-based programs that positively impact the people of Victoria. And with the immense skills of the VicHealth team and our partners, we can go even further.
Chief Executive Officer