13 Nov, 2014 Last updated: 11 May, 2015

In the latest edition of the VicHealth Letter we take a look back at some of the publications' highlights and show the great range of activity VicHealth leads in 2014.

Professor Emeritus John Catford

Message from the Chair

Professor Emeritus John Catford
Chair of the Board

VicHealth was established with all-Party support by the State Parliament of Victoria, and mandated by the Tobacco Act 1987 to fund health promotion activity. Additional taxes on tobacco were destined to fund better health for Victorians.

It was a world-first initiative, and the VicHealth model was the first of its kind. The sense of purpose and energy around this new foundation was palpable, and the model has since been adopted by a number of countries around the world.

Reading through this 40th edition of the VicHealth Letter, I am extremely proud to see that same sense of purpose and energy has prevailed and grown stronger with time. As a state that has always aspired for good health, Victoria still needs it to keep accelerating forwards. Although diminished, smoking remains a serious threat to our health. We also face a major rise in the incidence and impact of obesity and chronic diseases. And although we are living longer, it is the health-related decisions we make early in our lives that determine the quality of our life in later years.

VicHealth's collaborations and groundbreaking research contribute to an expanding global knowledge and experience base, while informing strategies for the Australian context. The recent designation of VicHealth as the new World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Leadership in Health Promotion cements our status as a global leader in preventing chronic disease. VicHealth shares knowledge and fosters discussion and debate about how we can ensure the ongoing health of all Victorians. This has been the role of the VicHealth Letter across 20 years and 40 editions.

On behalf of the Board, I wish to acknowledge the many partners we featured and the many people who have contributed to the writing, editing and production of this respected publication. Your energy and efforts are manifest in this anniversary edition of the VicHealth Letter, which is rich in insight and information, and lives up to the expectations VicHealth's founders had in 1987. I would also like to extend our gratitude to outgoing Board Chair Mark Birrell for his huge contribution to VicHealth's success, from its initial inception in the 1980s through to his visionary and transformational leadership on the Board in this decade. An outstanding achievement for better health in Victoria. Thank you, Mark.

Jerril Rechter

CEO's foreword

Jerril Rechter
Chief Executive Officer

Knowledge is power, and in the hands and minds of consumers it becomes empowerment. These principles are the foundation of health promotion – taking evidence-based knowledge and programs to policy makers, practitioners and the community.

That is why the VicHealth Letter plays such an important role in generating health outcomes: particularly in the context of rapid change and intensifying information density. The health sector and consumers want to know the status of research and practice, and be confident of reliable and current information.

Today Australia is leading the world in many areas of health research and promotion. To stay ahead and get the best outcomes for Victorians, VicHealth works closely with key partners to constantly innovate and apply ideas, often from non-traditional sources.

Our story ‘Innovative ideas to lead health promotion in a new direction’ (page 6) explores this continuous evolution and welcomes leading government advisor, author, academic and Director of the United Kingdom’s Behavioural Insights Team, Dr David Halpern, VicHealth’s first ‘Leading Thinker’. The Leading Thinker Initiative will connect international thought leaders with senior policy makers and key experts to focus on complex health promotion issues including obesity, the focus of Dr Halpern’s residency.

Also in this edition of the VicHealth Letter, learn from the alarming findings of a national survey on violence against women that reveal some Australian men and women still believe that rape and physical violence are justifiable. Importantly, the report concludes that, above all else, the main influence on people’s attitudes to violence against women was their understanding of the issue and how supportive they were of gender equality. Therefore, the more they subscribe to conservative stereotypes about men and women, the more likely they were to excuse, trivialise or justify violent behaviour. Read these findings and more on page 18 from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS) report.

Positive mental health, psychological wellbeing and our plans to build resilience in young people are explored in the article ‘Building resilience for young people to flourish’. Find out more about the work we’ve been undertaking with young people about drinking culture in Victoria. Read ‘The conversation we had to have on alcohol’ for insights the NameThatPoint campaign provided to develop our new campaign: No Excuse Needed. We are also delighted to feature a Q&A with Dr Shin Young-soo, Regional Director for the Western Pacific with the World Health Organization; a centrespread of highlights from 40 editions of the VicHealth Letter and a summary of our published research.

This bumper edition reflects the great range of activity VicHealth leads in 2014. On behalf of our organisation, I wish to congratulate our partners, contributors and those whose work has led to the development of the VicHealth Letter over time, and thank our readers for their ongoing interest and support.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge outgoing Chair of the VicHealth Board Mark Birrell for his stewardship and invaluable commitment to the organisation since its inception, and welcome Professor John Catford in the role as Chair and Ms Nicole Livingstone as Deputy Chair.

Latest news

VicHealth goes global as a WHO Collaborating Centre

In September VicHealth was honoured to be designated as the new World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Leadership in Health Promotion.

The Collaborating Centre based at VicHealth will focus on strengthening health promotion leadership in the Western Pacific Region. VicHealth will lead the activities of the Collaborating Centre which include hosting international delegations, forging new partnerships in health, sharing information and resources and on-the-ground technical support.

Take the 30-day Challenge: H30 water

Woman drinking

Evidence indicates sugar-sweetened beverages are contributing to rising levels of obesity in the population. VicHealth’s H30 Challenge encourages participants to replace sugary drinks and ‘switch to water’ for 30 days to reap a whole range of health benefits. Signing up to the challenge is free and participants can choose their own start date. Sign up today and encourage others to get involved

A boost for arts and health

Girl spinning a plate

VicHealth and Arts Victoria have partnered up to develop arts projects that act as a gateway to regular exercise through VicHealth’s Active Arts Strategy 2014–2017

A major focus for VicHealth has always been the role the arts play in promoting good mental health and enhancing social connection, but this new strategy goes further and looks at the additional physical benefits of active and participatory arts. A key part of the strategy combines digital technology with the latest trends in design innovation from around the globe. 

Creating a healthier future one step at a time

Man walking with children

VicHealth’s annual Walk to School event is on again for the month of October. Walk to School encourages children to walk to and from school every day, highlighting the ways walking improves children’s health and wellbeing – and there are fantastic prizes available for schools and students. 

Last year more than 32,000 students from 303 primary schools took part, and together they walked more than 400,000 kilometres. This year more than 550 schools have registered their interest in participating. Visit the website or like Walk to School on facebook

Supporting Victorians to get active

Two children playing sport

This year, for the first time in 26 years, VicHealth’s Active Club Grants will offer two rounds of funding opportunities to hundreds of Victorian sports clubs. The Active Club Grants, of up to $3000 each, aim to make it easier for clubs to encourage people to join, by funding items or equipment, and helping to improve the safety of those taking part. The first round has now closed. The second round will open on Monday 12 January 2015 and run until Friday 13 February 2015.