The inception of VicHealth in 1987 was the result of an unparalleled effort by public health advocates, members from all sides of the Victorian political landscape and the community. A unique model for a health promotion body was created, funded by a tax on tobacco.
From its beginnings of reducing the impact of smoking in Victoria, VicHealth has addressed many other health challenges in the state. Today, it is at the forefront of health promotion, supporting Victorians to overcome barriers to better health and wellbeing.
The current issues affecting health and wellbeing are broad and complex. The rise in chronic disease is punctuated by the pervasiveness of poor nutrition, physical inactivity, stressful lifestyles and harmful behaviours like smoking and excessive drinking. Added to this are the persistent inequalities in health which hinder opportunities for disadvantaged Victorians to gain their full health potential and participate in their communities.
Many Victorians now know much more about what is healthy and what isn’t, and yet too many still make unhealthy choices. Hence, the belief that ‘health happens everywhere’ has been the basis of VicHealth’s work to not only understand the deep-seated motivations guiding choices, but also address the interrelated influences and dynamics of where people live, work, study and play.
VicHealth’s 10-year strategic plan to 2023, the Action Agenda for Health Promotion, is our overarching guide to drive positive changes. With input from all levels in governments, health promotion, industry, community, leading thinkers and its Board and staff, the Action Agenda has clear goals and priorities for each of the five strategic imperatives – promoting healthy eating, encouraging regular physical activity, preventing tobacco use, preventing harm from alcohol and improving mental wellbeing.
VicHealth’s vision in 2023 is one million more Victorians living with better health and wellbeing.
Bold targets require bold actions. The Action Agenda focuses on big issues that impact the health of the whole Victorian population. At the same time, it continues to address the needs of those with poorer health status by ensuring that a health equity lens is applied throughout all programs and research. VicHealth’s work is encompassed by the three approaches of its organisational model: innovate, inform and integrate.
VicHealth has a strong commitment to innovation as a way of surfacing opportunities to accelerate the progress of health promotion efforts, as well as our own Action Agenda. This is achieved by trialing new approaches to solving complex public health issues, building bridges to embed global best practice into the Victorian Health Promotion and Prevention System, and testing new partnership and co-investment models to achieve collective impact in health promotion. We also engage Victorians in public debate and conversation and see this as an opportunity to influence health promotion behaviour through a social movement model. As a result of these efforts proven innovations can be embedded into mainstream policy and practice.
VicHealth is embracing social marketing along with proven methods of communication to reach as many Victorians as possible and change attitudes to health. It is also facilitating strategic partnerships and engaging in public debate to address health priorities.
Embedding proven initiatives into health promotion policy and best practice and working strategically with a range of partners continues to yield dividends. It allows VicHealth to continue its legacy as innovator and risk taker, backed by evidence from research and to deploy its innovations into mainstream work.
While bringing together these resources, VicHealth is also engaging with communities. VicHealth is collaborating with everyday citizens to clear new pathways to health.
The vision for one million more Victorians with better health and wellbeing requires VicHealth to listen, to be agile, proactive and accountable for its work. In implementing the Action Agenda, VicHealth will apply the learnings of nearly three decades to lead high-impact initiatives, encourage good policies and foster the right partnerships that support every Victorian to achieve their full health potential.
The challenges to achieving improved health and wellbeing in Victoria have never been more pressing. VicHealth continues to work with partners from all sectors to use collective resources and influence to develop an effective response to these challenges.