Public health partners join forces to improve health equity
A powerhouse of local public health partners attended the Western Public Health Unit’s (WPHU) inaugural Population Health Promotion and Planning Forum in March, committing to a joined-up approach to chronic disease prevention in Melbourne’s central and western metropolitan region.
Director Dr Finn Romanes said the forum provided an opportunity to share WPHU’s approach for supporting primary prevention action across the catchment and to launch the new WPHU Prevention Network, a partnership model that fosters collaboration and collective impact on priority areas.
“Through this new network, we will work with partners in a targeted, collective and coordinated way to take action on food systems and healthy eating, reduce tobacco-related harm and vaping, and address climate change and its impact on health,” Dr Romanes said.
“There are a lot of effective evidence-based programs and services already established within communities and WPHU wants to take a greater role in coordinating and amplifying these efforts to extend their reach with the aim of reducing burden of disease and health inequalities for communities.”
About 70 people attended the forum including representatives from local government, community health centres, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, GenWest, the Department of Health and health services. Among the participants were senior leaders, public health planners, social planners, community engagement specialists, project officers and operational leads, bringing a wide range of experience, expertise and perspectives.
The forum began with presentations from Dr Romanes, Deputy Director Dr Charles Alpren, Divisional Director Kate Cranwell, and Health Promotion and Planning Manager Veronica Graham, who shared WPHU’s vision for prevention and population health in the region. The forum then got hands on, with attendees identifying potential actions for each priority area and thinking about how their organisations might contribute.
Dr Romanes said bringing together the eight local governments (Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Merri-bek, Moonee Valley and Wyndham) in the catchment was the first important step towards increasing health equity across the catchment.
“Local governments and community health services play a vital role in creating environments that support health and wellbeing, and WPHU is excited to support them in their prevention efforts,” Dr Romanes said.
Health Promotion and Planning Manager Ms Graham said the benefits of working together, using a joined-up approach to the three priority areas, would have a positive and far-reaching flow-on effect for the entire region.
“For instance, if we reduce the consumption of ultra-processed foods by three-year-olds in our catchment by just one serve a day, it could equate to 6.3 million fewer pieces of rubbish a year,” Ms Graham said.
“Achieving this small change has two big benefits: firstly, our children will be healthier and secondly, there will be less pressure on our planet and less rubbish for councils to collect. If we did this for children aged 2 to 15, this would equate to a reduction of 82 million fewer pieces of rubbish – just in our catchment alone.”
The feedback from attendees was positive with many commenting on the benefits of connecting and collaborating on their shared goal of improving health outcomes for their communities.
Attendees were invited to join the Prevention Network Collective, which will meet quarterly from June 2023 to drive collaborative action across the three priority areas.
Read more about WPHU’s Health Promotion team.