06 May, 2015 Last updated: 06 May, 2015

In September 2014 VicHealth was designated as a new World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Leadership in Health Promotion.

Through this recognition, VicHealth will focus on strengthening health promotion in Australia and the Western Pacific Region. VicHealth will lead the activities of the new centre, building on our existing expertise and our role as a leader in health promotion.

The activities of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Leadership in Health Promotion will include building the capacity of existing and new health promotion organisations through technical support and mentoring, as well as hosting international delegations, forging new partnerships in health and sharing information and resources across the region.

Our designation recognises that for nearly three decades VicHealth has generated and shared evidence-based knowledge with local and international partners. It also acknowledges Victoria’s leadership in health promotion and disease prevention, and our long history of working in collaboration with government, researchers, non-government organisations and affected community groups. The Collaborating Centre provides an opportunity to share learnings from our successes and the work of our partners across the 37 countries in the region.

The Western Pacific Region, one of the six WHO regions, is home to 1.8 billion people, more than a quarter of the global population. Non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases are responsible for four in five deaths in the region. Health promotion approaches have the potential to prevent much of this ill health, and VicHealth aims to share its, and our valued partners, knowledge in areas such as healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco, alcohol and mental wellbeing to inform and assist action across the region.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter says the organisation feels a sense of great responsibility and promise in receiving designation as a WHO Collaborating Centre. "Since our establishment in 1987, VicHealth has aimed to produce the highest quality research and solutions for the complex challenge of promoting health. It is an honour and a privilege for VicHealth to continue to generate and share knowledge with our partners, including our commitment to the International Network of Health Promotion Foundations. 

"The recent designation cements our status as a global leader in health promotion," said Ms Rechter. As a WHO Collaborating Centre, VicHealth recently hosted Seini Mafi Filiai, CEO of the Tonga Health Promotion Foundation (TongaHealth). TongaHealth was established in 2009 and the visit gave VicHealth an opportunity to share our knowledge with a relatively new health promotion foundation, as well as build VicHealth’s understanding of the health issues and health promotion successes in the region.

"The main health issue in Tonga is noncommunicable diseases. It’s the major cause of mortality, causing almost 80% of all deaths in Tonga," said Mrs Filiai. "Tonga also has a very high rate of obesity and a lot of people are overweight." 

TongaHealth’s focus over the next 10 years includes collaboration, building partnerships and advocacy for legislative change. "We plan to develop partnerships with overseas organisations like VicHealth that have the skills and a long history of success in doing health promotion. So we are grateful we can develop a working partnership with VicHealth and other international organisations like the World Health Organization, which has been supporting a lot of health promotion initiatives in Tonga."

The Western Pacific Region, one of the six regions of the World Health Organization, is home to approximately 1.8 billion people, more than one-fourth of the world's population.1

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (principally cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases) are the leading causes of death and disability in the Region, responsible for 80% of all deaths in the region.2

Globally, NCD deaths are projected to increase by 15% between 2010 and 2020 (to 44 million deaths), with the highest numbers predicted in the Western Pacific (12.3 million deaths) and South-East Asia (10.4 million deaths) Regions.2

There are an estimated 430 million smokers residing in the Western Pacific Region, or about one-third of the world’s smokers.3 In the Region, it is estimated that two people die every minute from tobacco-related disease, and half of all men, women and children are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at home and in public places.4 

Of the World Health Organization’s six regions, the Western Pacific Region has:

  • the greatest number of smokers
  • the highest rates of male smoking prevalence
  • the fastest increase in tobacco uptake by women and young people.4

In the Western Pacific Region, NCD risk factors remain unacceptably high:

  • one in five adults over 18 years of age has elevated blood pressure5
  • nearly half of all men over 15 years of age smoke tobacco daily5
  • 85% of adolescents do not engage in sufficient physical activity5
  • About one in every 20 deaths in the Western Pacific Region is caused by alcohol consumption. The Western Pacific, along with the Europe and the Americas, has the highest rates of adolescent heavy drinking.6

1 WHO (World Health Organization), WHO in the Western Pacific, web page, retrieved January 2015, www.wpro.who.int/about/in_brief/en/
2 WHO (World Health Organization), Noncommunicable diseases, web page, retrieved January 2015, www.wpro.who.int/topics/noncommunicable_diseases/en/
3 WHO (World Health Organization), Tobacco Free Initiative, web page, retrieved January 2015, www.wpro.who.int/tobacco/about/en/
4 WHO (World Health Organization), Tobacco Free Initiative, web page, retrieved January 2015, www.wpro.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs_201203_tobacco/en/
5 WHO (World Health Organization), News release, web page, retrieved January 2015, www.wpro.who.int/mediacentre/releases/2015/20150119/en/
6 WHO (World Health Organization), Alcohol fact sheet, web page, retrieved January 2015
Michael Moore

Michael Moore

CEO, Public Health Association of Australia and Vice-President/President-Elect, World Federation of Public Health Associations

"The designation of VicHealth as WHO Collaborating Centre provides some outstanding opportunities for their achievements to be shared worldwide. These have been important for Victoria and have provided a model for other countries. Health promotion and public health action cannot simply be extrapolated from one community to another and VicHealth is wellplaced to share their learnings."

Seini Mafi Filiai

Seini Mafi Filiai

TongaHealth CEO

"We plan to develop partnerships with overseas organisations like VicHealth that have the skills and a long history of success in doing health promotion."

Dr Shin Young-soo

Dr Shin Young-soo

Regional Director for the Western Pacific World Health Organization (WHO)

"VicHealth has accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise that can be shared with other countries that may be embarking on their own journey to set up health promotion foundations."

Jacqui Webster

Dr Jacqui Webster

Director, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Population Salt Reduction, The George Institute for Global Health, Australia

"VicHealth will be a valuable addition to the WHO Collaborating Centres as an exemplar of innovative health promotion strategies. I’m looking forward to our continued partnership in Australia and future opportunities to link our work internationally."