Making a genuine impact on the health and wellbeing of Victorians continues to motivate us. While many challenges remain, we have made great strides and have ambitious plans for the years ahead.
Chief Executive Officer
This year VicHealth has focused on big health issues and used its enhanced agility to identify and address opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorians.
All of our work aligns to our five strategic imperatives of promoting healthy eating, encouraging physical activity, preventing tobacco use, preventing harm from alcohol and improving mental wellbeing.
At the same time, we have kept our focus on fostering health equity to ensure that every Victorian has the opportunity to attain their full health potential.
We have worked on high-impact initiatives, programs and social marketing campaigns that reached Victorians in the day-to-day spaces where lifestyle factors influence health and wellbeing. This included innovating with digital technology, which increasingly influences our lives in a profound and encompassing way.
To find bold and creative solutions to health and wellbeing challenges, including addressing infrastructures and systems to help make healthy choices easier, we have formed new partnerships and enhanced old ones.
VicHealth led a collaboration with major health and industry groups to develop and implement an action plan to reduce salt intake in Victorian diets, with the ultimate goal of preventing death and disability from causes directly related to its high intake.
To help reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, a major contributor to overweight and obesity, we’ve promoted and built infrastructure to support the greater intake of water. Partners, including the City of Melbourne, have increased access to water in key environments at sports clubs, major sporting events and high traffic areas across the city.
In addition, we launched the H30 Challenge social marketing campaign, encouraging Victorians to make a 30-day pledge to switch from sugary drinks to water for their health, with a third of participants taking action to increase their intake of water and reduce the amount of sugary drinks consumed.
Working with a range of government and non-government partners, we led an Alcohol Culture Change campaign. This included innovative approaches to reduce alcohol consumption and its attendant harms, and enable an improved drinking culture that decreases the acceptability of intoxication. This included the No Excuse Needed media campaign which led to a third of viewers drinking less alcohol as a result, and trials in licensed premises to encourage patrons to drink more water.
In just one year, we funded thirteen initiatives as part of the new Innovation Challenges program, targeting seed funding to initiatives that encourage healthier behaviours in four areas: physical activity, reducing alcohol consumption, mental wellbeing through participation in the arts, and improving access to sustainable, nutritious food.
With great anticipation, we launched our VicHealth Leading Thinkers initiative. Dr David Halpern of the UK-based Behavioural Insights Team, our inaugural Leading Thinker, visited Victoria several times during the year to work with us and some of our partners.
This initiative brings together experts who draw upon behavioural economics and other fields to generate new thinking and approaches to deep-rooted health challenges. The first of these is the urgent and complex problem of obesity, which has become a leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia.
To provide Victorian’s with the independent, reliable and evidence based information they need to be empowered to live healthier and happier lives, we’ve engaged them in conversations about health through media and social media. Our research, guides and tools have been reported on TV, radio, online and in printed press, and shared on Facebook and Twitter.
True to our legacy of generating evidence to support our actions, we continued to contribute significantly to health promotion knowledge and intelligence through our investments in research and evaluation. This year, VicHealth committed approximately $1.25 million to fund new ARC Linkage and NHMRC Partnership research projects commencing in 2014–15. We also supported 13 of these grants to full application. Approximately half of applications with VicHealth as a partner in these grants are successful and every dollar of VicHealth investment in these grants results in a five-fold return in funding from the Commonwealth, for the benefit of Victorian research.
In September 2014, VicHealth was designated as a new World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Leadership in Health Promotion. Through this recognition, we began to focus on strengthening health promotion in Australia and the Western Pacific Region, which is home to 1.8 billion people.
Looking to the years ahead
This year was defined by innovation, creativity and forward thinking.
We are continuing to explore and implement bold new ways to address Victoria’s health priorities with cutting-edge interventions, digital technologies, pioneering research and cross-sectoral knowledge. We are embracing this boldness while staying solidly grounded in evidence-based health promotion and innovation.
To measure the impact of our work, we have set ourselves bold targets. Our Action Agenda Scorecard is the embodiment of our vision for achieving one million more Victorians with better health and wellbeing. In a first for VicHealth, we have set our sights on specific targets, which we know will also inspire our partners to imagine new possibilities for Victorians’ health, and to help focus our collective efforts.
This coming year – and for the remaining eight years of the Action Agenda – all of our work will be shaped and defined by our organisational model, which has three equally important approaches: innovate, inform and integrate.
- We will harness the insights presented by digital technology to improve the reach and quality of our initiatives.
- We will dig deeper to understand behaviour, correlating insights from behavioural economics, psychology and social anthropology to design interventions that encourage, support and enable people to make healthier choices.
- We will continue to drive the creation and transfer of knowledge; use data and evidence to make the best possible decisions; and carry out rigorous evaluation of all VicHealth investments to increase the impact of our health promotion programs.
- We will continue to embrace social marketing as a critical way of using our understanding of the public’s needs and wants, to drive change in awareness, attitudes and, ultimately, behaviour.
- We will continue to align with government priorities and complement the work of other agencies, to embrace the synergy we know achieves the best results for Victorians.
- We will continue to operate with transparency and accountability, and with a focus on the sustainability of our actions.
- We will be unceasing in our work to remove the barriers to better health and wellbeing, and reduce chronic illness among Victorians.
- We are committed to reducing health inequities and will work so that every Victorian can have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential.
- Importantly, we will remain focused by implementing the Action Agenda to strengthen our competencies and influence, share our expertise, lead high-impact projects and support good health policy while continuing to fund research and initiatives that improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorians.
VicHealth has a unique role, a role which is increasingly important as it builds on three decades of experience, knowledge and achievement. Our past year has been defined by innovation. Our next year will be defined by our ability to apply this year’s learnings and implement actions to meet the great health challenges of our time.
We are grateful for the support of the Minister for Health, The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP and thank the previous Minister for Health, The Hon. David Davis MP. And, we would like to acknowledge the invaluable support of the Victorian Government, members of the Victorian Parliament, a number of government agencies and key partners, researchers and our patrons, who have given us the tools and confidence to be ambitious.
Each and every staff member at VicHealth is driven to achieve our goals and aspirations. They can be immensely proud of the achievements of the last year and the work they are doing now that will yield results for many years to come. Thank you.