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The Western Public Health Unit (WPHU) has released its inaugural Population Health Catchment Plan, outlining a coordinated approach to tackling some of central and western Melbourne’s biggest health challenges and contributing to the Victorian Government’s vision to “make Victorians the healthiest people in the world”.

Children playing at local playground in Braybrook.

Through consultation with local partners and community and a comprehensive analysis of available data, WPHU has assessed the opportunities to improve public health in the 8 local government areas that comprise our catchment, and identified agreed priorities to improve health and reduce inequalities.

WPHU serves a diverse, young and rapidly expanding population. Some of the LGAs in WPHU have more than doubled over the past 15 years and are expected to grow by another 40 per cent between 2020 and 2030. More than 44 per cent of people in the catchment speak a language other than English at home. Pockets of socio-economic disadvantage exist across the catchment in all local government areas.

The catchment has high levels of avoidable chronic conditions like coronary heart disease, diabetes, tooth decay and cancers, and associated higher rates of premature mortality, as well as low rates of participation in cancer screening programs. Significant scope exists to improve risk factors within the population: only 3.2 per cent of adults consume sufficient fruit and vegetables; rates of smoking are higher than the Victorian average in 4 out of 8 LGAs and smoking during pregnancy is a significant problem in areas of socio-economic disadvantage

Based on health needs of the population, the following 3 focus areas hold the greatest potential for initial action: improving food systems and healthy eating; reducing tobacco-related harm and vaping; and climate change and its impact on health. The focus areas are directly connected to preventing avoidable chronic diseases, are especially relevant to the population of our catchment, and are well suited to a focus on primary prevention.

From here, WPHU will use a collective impact model, bringing together partners to align resources, skills and knowledge for the achievement of catchment priorities. These collective efforts will be supported through a formalised partnership structure – the WPHU Population and Preventive Health Network. The network is composed of a population and preventive health reference committee and 3 action groups dedicated to the initial focus areas. The action groups are open to all catchment stakeholders and will provide a dedicated space to share insights and evidence-based initiatives, co-design interventions and boost collective action across the catchment.

WPHU thanks all contributors – local government, community health services, regional and state stakeholders and communities – for their valuable input into the catchment plan.

An Executive Summary only version is also available for download.