Promoting health at the community level
Australia has one of the best health systems in the world, but it is under pressure from a rapidly growing and ageing population, and increasing prevalence of preventable chronic diseases. In particular, an increase in people being overweight or obese is associated with worrying health trends in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and some cancers.
We can significantly reduce chronic disease by promoting healthy lifestyles and improving the environments in which people live and work. Programs for individuals are useful, but their benefits are often only short-term. To achieve sustained reductions in the growth of preventable chronic diseases, and to create lasting improvements in the health and wellbeing of people and communities, we need a prevention system that is coordinated, responsive, sustainable, and that complements our healthcare system.
Victoria is developing such a system. The Victorian Prevention System builds on the best available evidence, current strengths in preventive health, and a strong partnership approach. It will provide a solid foundation to meet our future challenges.
A national partnershipThe Commonwealth Government has allocated funding over four years (2011-2015) through the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (NPAPH) to help slow the growth of lifestyle-related chronic disease in Australia. A range of initiatives to promote healthy behaviours will be delivered in Victoria through our prevention system, supported by a significant investment by the State Government. Programs will be rolled out in early childhood settings, schools, workplaces and communities. They will specifically target the underlying causes of chronic disease including smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol misuse and physical inactivity.
The Commonwealth will manage national programs, and will develop infrastructure to support, monitor and evaluate the progress of programs delivered in selected communities across the nation. The Department of Health is redesigning its approach to preventive health to slow the growth of lifestyle-related chronic disease in Victoria.
The Victorian context
As part of Victoria’s implementation of the NPAPH, and integrated with the State Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2011-2015, the Department of Health is reforming how preventive health is delivered.
Development of the Victorian Prevention System will bring together relevant policies and build a Prevention Community Model that uses local partnerships to design and deliver tailored interventions.
Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act (2008), each local council in Victoria develops a Municipal Public Health Plan that outlines action to prevent or minimise public health risks and promote health and wellbeing. These plans are developed with local communities and services.
The local planning, partnership development and delivery envisaged under the department’s reforms to preventive health at the community level makes it an ideal fit with local government health planning.
Community action the Prevention Community Model
Community-level action under the NPAPH will enable an intensive and targeted prevention effort that responds to local needs and reflects local infrastructure, networks, programs and planning processes. This means the action taken in any area is tailored to the health issues specific to that place and the people and organisations existing within that area.
Victoria's Prevention Community Model will fund 12 local consortia (prevention areas), consisting of 14 local government authorities (LGAs) and community health agencies. Intense work across over 40 high-needs communities will aim to improve health and reduce health disparities.
In these communities, existing health promotion efforts will be strengthened through alignment with the new prevention system and by providing access to:
- a significant new prevention workforce and a workforce development strategy
- tailored interventions at the community level, including significant funding to implement healthy living programs
- support for the implementation of health promoting policies in schools and workplaces
- community level and state-wide health promotion networks
- support for the establishment of local partnerships for health
- innovation in community engagement and social marketing
- research and evaluation support via the newly established Centre of Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science (CEIPS).
Prevention areas will undertake community assessment and system mapping so that healthy living programs can be selected and delivered in accordance with community needs. Healthy living programs aim to improve health by providing information, education and skills development to communities. They include programs that encourage community member participation, as well as initiatives that create environments that support and encourage healthy living.
Working under the Prevention Community Model, local partnerships will begin to build the new prevention system from 2011 through to 2014-15, with staged system development continuing as new areas and prevention issues are incorporated.
Selected communitiesThis new approach targets funding and effort in communities according to need. This means the right kinds of interventions are delivered to the places where they are most needed, and where they will have the most effect.
Each of the prevention areas has been selected using methodology that identified relative disadvantage. The selected LGAs include a mix of metropolitan, regional and rural areas, and will be officially acknowledged following the completion of negotiations currently underway.
EvaluationA key feature of the NPAPH is the establishment of infrastructure to monitor and evaluate the progress of the key components of the partnership. The Australian National Preventive Health Agency will support the development of evidence and data on preventive health in Australia and the effectiveness of preventive health interventions, and will establish national guidelines and standards to guide preventive health activities.
The Victorian Government recently established the Centre of Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science (CEIPS) to support Victoria and its local governments in assessing the success of their prevention efforts in communities, and to rapidly feed this back so that improvements can be made quickly. This knowledge, combined with expertise available through our partnerships with universities, will ensure that existing evidence and emerging theory are integrated into all aspects of the Victorian prevention system.
For more information:
Building the Victorian prevention system
Promoting a healthy workplace
Promoting children's health
Victorian Healthy Eating Advisory Service
Victorian Centre of Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science
Prevention and Population Health Branch: telephone (03) 9096 1487 or