Healthy eating continues to be a high priority for VicHealth, with a focus this year on reducing salt intake, increasing access to water in public places and promoting water over sugary drinks.

3-Year Priority: More people choosing healthy food options and water

All too often, the healthy choice is not the easiest choice for people to make. 

Most people understand the importance of having a healthy diet for themselves and their families, as well as what foods and drinks make up a healthy diet. But there is a gap between what they aspire to eat and what they actually do eat. 

The reality is that eating a healthy, balanced diet is not just down to individual choice and willpower. The environment in which we live influences our diet, from the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables to time pressures and cultural norms. 

VicHealth has targeted three key areas to make it easier for people to choose the healthier options.

The H30 Challenge

30 days to swap sugary drinks for water     5500 participants     76% would continue drinking water

In September 2014 VicHealth launched a major social marketing campaign, the H30 Challenge. It encourages Victorians to swap sugary drinks for water for 30 days. 

The aim of the challenge is to help establish healthier habits, with water becoming the main choice of beverage in the long term. Evaluation of the campaign has shown it to be very successful, and the campaign will run again in 2015–16.

Working to reduce our salt intake

Victorians eat too much salt. High salt intake has been attributed to six times as many deaths each year as there are on our roads. Salt reduction is one of the most cost-effective strategies for improving health. 

Together with Deakin University, the Department of Health and Human Services, The George Institute for Global Health, the Heart Foundation, Kidney Health Australia and National Stroke Foundation, VicHealth instigated the Salt Reduction Strategic Partnership to advance action on salt reduction. The Partnership is working to achieve a greater commitment and consensus to reduce salt intake in Victoria, with increased monitoring of progress and a strong policy framework. The State of Salt: The Case for Salt Reduction in Victoria was published in May 2015. 

The aspirational goal is for a 1g reduction in average salt intake by 2018. Progress has been made through existing initiatives, but further collective action with government, industry and the public is needed as part of a comprehensive program of work. If Australia can achieve the WHO target of a 30 per cent reduction in average salt intake across the population by 2025, we can save around 3,500 lives a year, as well as millions of dollars to the health care system.

Making healthy food more accessible

To help improve the food supply, access and culture, VicHealth launched the Seed Challenge. It sought innovative solutions to achieve nutritious food that is sustainable, available and affordable for all Victorians. 

The two winners of the Seed Challenge were given funding to roll out their initiatives, with additional funding provided in November 2014:

1. Open Food Network is an online marketplace for small producers, allowing farmers and suppliers to connect directly with consumers. This results in easier access to affordable food.

2. 3000acres is helping people make use of vacant land around Melbourne to grow their own food. Seven plots of underutilised land have been converted into productive community gardens, improving access and also taking food education to the streets. 

These successful outcomes suggest both projects will continue to grow beyond the Seed Project which concludes in October 2015. 

Promoting water as the healthy drink choice

As a nation, we are one of the biggest consumers of soft drinks1 and sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the Australian diet2.

To achieve positive shifts in knowledge and attitudes around choosing water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, VicHealth has launched an integrated program encompassing social marketing, infrastructure development, settings-based research and strategic partnerships. 

In partnership with the City of Melbourne, we installed 60 drinking fountains with special taps for refilling water bottles. Early research suggests water bottle refill stations are an effective way to encourage people to drink more water. We will continue to evaluate the drinking fountains and use the results of our research to inform the development of evidence-based approaches and best practice guidelines.

Back to VicHealth Highlights 2014-15

1. Euromonitor International 2006, Country Sector Briefing – Carbonates – Australia. Euromonitor International Inc., Chicago.
2. NHMRC 2013, Australian Dietary Guidelines: Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra. See