18 Apr, 2016 Last updated: 07 Nov, 2018

This edition discusses mental wellbeing and the concept of resilience and megatrends that will affect young Victorians. We also showcase how technology is being used to keep people active and healthy.

VicHealth Letter Issue 41

Download: VicHealth Letter: Issue 43 (PDF, 1.7 MB)

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Professor Emeritus John Catford

Message from the Chair

Professor Emeritus John Catford
Chair of the Board

At any one time, a person can experience multiple health and wellbeing issues. These are often interrelated.

Mental wellbeing, physical health, quality of life, social connection, and productivity can all influence each other positively and negatively. We are not isolated individuals – “no one is an island”. Rather we are bound to the physical and social environments in which we live.

So, if we are to improve the health and wellbeing of Victorians we need to address broader environmental factors and consider every aspect of our life in the community.

Since our last edition of the Letter we have seen the successful completion of cricket’s inaugural Women’s Big Bash League, which has helped to raise the profile of women’s sport in Victoria and Australia. On 2 January a record national average of 372,000 viewers watched the inaugural VicHealth derby between the Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars, both of whom are also VicHealth partners.

We have seen increased participation in six different sporting codes via VicHealth’s Changing the Game campaign. With VicHealth funding, these sports are offering new activities to improve physical health, mental wellbeing and social connection by making it easy, sociable and fun to get active.

Domestic violence is another area that has gained significant attention. Recently, we saw the launch by Our Watch, VicHealth and ANROWS of a national framework for the prevention of violence against women and their children – Change the Story. The framework highlights the links between gender inequality, violence against women and health. Supported by research, it identifies the key actions to prevent violence and the strategies and approaches required to address this urgent health problem.

At the end of March 2016 we welcomed the findings of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which cited VicHealth’s contribution to preventing violence against women over the past 15 years. The recommendations will help guide VicHealth’s health promotion and prevention future work. This includes providing forums for Victorian policy-makers to take action on the findings, as well as driving new approaches to building gender equality in sporting organisations, schools, workplaces and communities.

A recent report by PwC, in partnership with VicHealth and OurWatch, has shown the economic cost of violence against women and their children in Australia is $21.6 billion each year. With Governments carrying more than a third of the cost burden, this staggering statistic further highlights the need for investment in prevention.

VicHealth’s work in the Latrobe Valley demonstrates the link between economic and social disadvantage and health. In the aftermath of the Hazelwood mine fire in 2014, VicHealth has worked with the community to build resilience and social connection. A community already experiencing disadvantage, VicHealth’s investment has helped strengthen people’s health and mental wellbeing through difficult circumstances.

When the Hon. Martin Foley MP launched Victoria’s ten-year mental health plan in November last year, he said: “Mental health is everyone’s business.” I agree.

It is all connected: physical health, mental wellbeing, social connection and the environment in which we live.

This holistic view of health and wellbeing, focused more broadly on environmental and social factors, strengthens our ability to address the causes of a range of health and wellbeing issues. The progress that we Victorians are making to enable one million more of us to enjoy better health and wellbeing by 2023 is truly inspiring.

Congratulations and thanks for all your efforts.

Jerril Rechter

CEO's foreword

Jerril Rechter
Chief Executive Officer

The factors that affect our health and wellbeing are as diverse and far-reaching as our level of social connectedness, how well we cope with challenges, the technology around us and the content of our food.

Mental wellbeing, a topic that is finally starting to receive the attention it requires, is a particularly complex area of health and requires broad investigation. Since the 1990s, VicHealth has undertaken groundbreaking mental wellbeing research with a focus on promoting diversity and gender equity. Our achievements in this area have contributed to a new direction: aiming to build resilience in young people.

We need to build resilience in the younger generation so that our community of the future is able to cope and thrive in a high-paced, competitive global world. Social connections, information and support help individuals achieve positive outcomes despite adverse events.

VicHealth’s Mental Wellbeing Strategy 2015–2019 will guide us as we work towards our goal of 200,000 more Victorians resilient and connected by 2023. This edition of the VicHealth Letter highlights the strengths of VicHealth’s evidence-based approach in developing new initiatives and putting them into practice to benefit Victorians now and for many years to come.

VicHealth is proud of our leadership role in building the evidence to understand the health impacts of violence against women in Victoria and Australia. The findings of the Royal Commission into Family Violence have highlighted the vital importance of primary prevention to address this problem and given VicHealth a refreshed focus. VicHealth will continue to support sporting organisations to promote women’s participation and leadership in sport, test new ways to protect children from online pornography, bring experts together to discuss alcohol and violence, and collaborate with a range of new and existing partners to encourage respectful and equal relationships between men and women. We all have a responsibility to prevent violence against women and our community is now poised to achieve a world-first reduction, preventing violence before it starts.

Drinking habits develop at an early age. We need to empower our younger generation with the education and support needed to develop healthy behaviours around alcohol. With the knowledge that 89 per cent of Australians aged 18–29 own a smart phone, VicHealth is researching how mobile phone technology could be leveraged as a platform to collect data and communicate with young Australians in real-time, as alcoholic drinks are being consumed. Many Victorians, particularly women, find it hard to fit physical activity into their busy lives. We are excited to be funding six new programs through our Physical Activity Innovation Challenge, which will offer sociable, flexible and less-structured ways to participate in sport.

Ranging from walking football aimed at older people, to a version of water polo where players float in inner tubes, the programs will be trialled to make it easier for more Victorians to get active in new and fun ways. 

Salt has been described as a ‘silent killer’ in manufactured foods. This year, we continue to work closely with The George Institute, the Heart Foundation, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Kidney Health Australia, The Stroke Foundation and Deakin University to engage and support the food industry to reduce salt levels in foods and evaluate the effectiveness of earlier strategies.

For much more on our activities and insights, enjoy reading the VicHealth Letter. Every edition is packed with diverse content but each underlines a powerful approach at the core of VicHealth’s work. Our actions are supported by robust evidence – a result of the research that we commission, as well as learnings and evaluation from our programs. Our approach positions us as experts in health promotion and enables us to make the strong partnerships that are essential to tackling health and wellbeing issues. In turn, our partnerships afford us insights, reach, collective resources and imagination, deepening our understanding of the complex issues in health and wellbeing and the most promising pathways forward.

Latest news

Discussion group

Regional conversations

Regional Victorians can face unique health and wellbeing challenges, and the way they’re addressed at a local level is different in every community.

In March and April 2016, VicHealth teamed up with the Victorian Regional Community Leadership Program (VRCLP) to hold conversations with local community leaders from the not-for-profit, government and corporate sectors across regional Victoria about how the whole community can work better together to tackle important local health promotion issues.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said: “It has been great to engage with community leaders in Ballarat, Shepparton, Bendigo, Gippsland and Geelong.

“The local community’s advice and insights will contribute towards the upcoming refresh of our Action Agenda for Health Promotion, our roadmap for VicHealth’s work to 2023.”

Kate Jenkins

Workplaces into the future

Australia’s new Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins (pictured), opened a VicHealth forum where local and international experts gathered on 23 March 2016 to discuss what it takes to improve health and wellbeing in our rapidly changing workplaces.

Findings from the Creating Healthy Workplaces project reports were presented at the forum and highlighted the important role workplaces have in leading changes that create healthier environments for their employees.

The program funded five large-scale projects in Victorian workplaces over four years. VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said: “VicHealth’s Creating Healthy Workplaces Program, in conjunction with a range of important partners, has built a body of knowledge about how to address alcohol-related harm, reduce prolonged sitting, prevent violence against women and minimise stress in the workplace.”

Girl holding hoola hoop

Roll up, roll up! Active Arts at White Night 2016

VicHealth brought the circus to town as part of Circus Circus at White Night Melbourne on 21 February 2016.

From 7pm to 7am, the VicHealth Active Arts stage entertained the crowds and demonstrated how circus skills can be fun and active, with performances from troupes including Circus Oz, Cirque Africa, Performing Older Women’s Circus, National Institute of Circus Arts and the Women’s Circus.

Along with professional performances, the audience had a rare opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes with an exposé of circus rigging, training and preparation for each act. Some brave Victorians even had a go on the trapeze, or got active by trying out their hula and juggling skills. Circus Circus is part of VicHealth’s Active Arts Strategy, giving Victorians a great chance to get moving and have fun through art.

Women riding bikes


VicHealth launched a new campaign in March 2016 to inspire Victorian women to find their motivation and rediscover how good it feels to get active.

We’re partnering with Melbourne Vixens, Parkrun, Geelong Football Club, Hawthorn Football Club, Melbourne City Football Club and Richmond Football Club on a range of initiatives to help women find simple ways to get active.

Many women have strong intent to be more active, however only one-third is active enough to benefit their health. The Find Your Motivation campaign aims to empower women aged 25–44 by providing a range of options to turn intention into action.

Find out more at Find Your Motivation.