VicHealth has championed the health and wellbeing of all Victorians for nearly three decades. Over this time, Victorians have progressively taken– control of their health through increased knowledge, support and engagement, and together we have improved the environments where people live, learn, work and play.
Professor John Catford
Chair of the Board, VicHealth
In this, the second year of the VicHealth Action Agenda for Health Promotion, we are pleased with the progress in working together towards the goal of one million more Victorians living with better health and wellbeing. The Action Agenda – our 10-year strategic plan – builds on the depth of experience and astounding talent of our partners and people.
Victoria is a leader in health promotion both nationally and internationally, recognised for excellence in developing and implementing evidence-based interventions to reduce the social and economic impact of chronic non-communicable diseases.
This places VicHealth in a unique position to provide advice and support to all levels of government, across political parties and throughout a range of portfolios. Our partners span many sectors, including health, sports, research, education, the arts and community. We also have strong relationships with health promotion practitioners and the media.
In 2014, we bid farewell to one state government and welcomed another. The multi-partisan support for our organisation is a hallmark of our origins and evolution: a core reason why Victoria has been able to achieve so much. Importantly, our strong working relationship with the Minister for Health, The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, enables us to progress our strategy whilst supporting government priorities.
As a strategic innovator, global influencer, ally and friend, VicHealth has extended the reach of its work, making significant advances in the Action Agenda’s five strategic imperatives. These are promoting healthy eating, encouraging regular physical activity, preventing tobacco use, preventing harm from alcohol and improving mental wellbeing.
VicHealth was founded with an objective of ending smoking related illness. With a great sense of achievement in May this year, we celebrated 30 years of Quit, a world-leading program we have been proud to fund and support via our longest standing partnership with the Cancer Council of Victoria. Smoking is continuing to trend downwards and the rate of decline has accelerated over the past three years, assisted by strong smoking cessation support, tax increases on tobacco products and the introduction of plain packaging.
In April this year, legislation was introduced banning smoking within four metres of centres caring for children. We congratulate the Victorian Government on this proactive policy in the first year of its term. VicHealth will continue to work with our partners to achieve the objective of preventing tobacco use.
Our research shows that mental illness is the largest contributor to the disability burden in Victoria, costing our economy $5.4 billion a year. VicHealth has commenced a multi-layered approach to meet its targets of improving mental wellbeing and resilience in young Victorians through education, community, online platforms, workplace partnerships and the arts.
The new Andrews Government appointed a Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, The Hon. Fiona Richardson MP, acknowledging this issue as the leading contributor to death, disability and illness for women aged 15 to 44. The establishment of the Royal Commission into Family Violence was another strong step towards reversing this trend. Based on our significant work in primary prevention initiatives over the last decade, VicHealth presented to the Royal Commission on several occasions in 2015 and has continued to fund groundbreaking research.
Regular physical activity is a key factor in promoting good health and preventing chronic disease, but less than a third of Australians are taking enough exercise to benefit their health. VicHealth has focused its support of sports organisations so that they are better able to promote good health, while also tackling barriers to sport participation, especially for women.
Healthy eating continues to be a high priority for VicHealth. This year we focused on lowering salt intake to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure. With great success we also worked on increasing access to water in public places and promoting the consumption of water in preference to energy dense sugary drinks.
Alcohol consumption is slowly decreasing in Australia, however alcohol is still second only to tobacco as the most preventable cause of death and hospitalisation. VicHealth continues to promote better attitudes, social norms and behaviours through social marketing, community engagement and partnerships.
VicHealth has learned much and shares that knowledge widely. Victorians have benefited from broad-based investments and partnerships, collaboration with governments at all levels, and strategic alliances with other agencies in health, sports, research, arts, media, academics and the community.
As in previous years, VicHealth is immensely proud of and deeply indebted to our partners, patrons, advocates and supporters who work tirelessly with us. Together our whole is so much greater than the sum of our parts.
I wish to pay my respects and personal gratitude to one of Victoria’s most important health promotion pioneers, Dr Nigel Gray AO, who passed away in December last year. Dr Gray’s relentless campaigning against tobacco advertising led to the creation of VicHealth in 1987.
Within VicHealth, we are grateful for the ongoing support and enthusiasm of our Board members Deputy Chair Ms Nicole Livingstone OAM, Ms Susan Crow, Ms Margot Foster AM, Mr Nick Green OAM, Professor Michael Morgan and Mr Stephen Walter. I particularly wish to acknowledge the valuable contributions of outgoing members Mr Peter Gordon, Professor Margaret Hamilton AO and Professor Ruth Rentschler OAM, and Members of Parliament Mr Neil Angus and Ms Danielle Greene who finished their tenures during this financial year.
The Board and staff thank Mr Mark Birrell, former Chair, who retired during the financial year. His inspirational leadership has ensured the success of VicHealth into the future.
Together with our outstanding CEO,Ms Jerril Rechter, and our skilled and experienced staff, we have positioned VicHealth to continue its unique role in promoting good health, preventing ill health and reducing the burden of disease for all Victorians.
To our friends, partners and communities – thank you for your tremendous support and willingness to work with us on new approaches in a complex and challenging environment.
I have great pleasure in presenting these highlights of our achievements in 2014–15, and I look forward to the next steps in progressing our quest of one million more Victorians with better health and wellbeing.