What health promoters learnt during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
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2020 was a difficult year for many, including those working to make Victorian communities healthier.
Despite the challenges, innovative work was delivered across the Victorian community to promote healthy living and wellbeing.
We wanted to hear from you, and had many amazing responses telling us about the work you’ve done to keep Victorians healthy under unusual circumstances.
In this article we’ll look at:
The ways you adapted to deliver work during the pandemic
What lessons you learnt, and what you're carrying on into 2021
Health Promotion in Action was created by VicHealth to provide case studies for health promotion practitioners, partners and organisations with an interest in promoting health and wellbeing. You can read more Health Promotion in Action articles here.
What did health promoters tell us?
We heard about your challenges: face-to-face programs couldn’t run as usual, the ability to travel was limited and communities weren’t as connected as they normally would be.
We also heard how you continually found new ways of working – with "pivot" a 2020 buzzword. You shared your lessons in keeping the community's needs front and centre, and how you joined forces with other organisations and sponsors to continue to deliver initiatives.
Read on to learn more, or skip to the end for our key takeaways.
Reaching audiences in different ways
One of the biggest themes that came through from the submissions VicHealth received was the ability for organisations to deliver messaging and programs differently in 2020.
With face-to-face contact limited for most of the year, the use of digital technology was vital to ensure that critical health messages could be delivered to the community.
For organisations such as Southwest Primary Care Partnership (Southwest PCP), this meant doing things differently. For the first time, it held its Annual Health South West Showcase online.
The forum provided local health promotion practitioners and partners across the entire south-west of Victoria a chance to highlight their collective efforts and actions in addressing physical and mental health and wellbeing during coronavirus.
“Holding the event online expanded the audience with some participants joining from as far away as NSW,” said Lynda Smith, Population Health Coordinator for Southwest PCP.
“[We want to] remain adaptable in the delivery of both online and face to face service and support, to benefit partner organisations.”
Not only did technology help health experts and advocates reach and speak to communities, it also helped you interact with each other.
You were able to use technology as part of your own professional development and collaboration, despite not being able to meet face-to-face. This opened you up to more opportunities by removing geographic barriers and allowing you to be in multiple 'places' in the same day.
“The Australian Public Health Consultants Network hosted 7 virtual events to connect and support members, and undertake professional development to hone our craft,” said Rebecca Zosel, co-founder of Australian Public Health Consultants Network.
“We’re continuing to build a community of public health consultants and support the development of entrepreneurship in the public health and health promotion workforce.”
Educating the next generation about health
2020 was also a time for you to think about who your messaging was reaching and who you could work with to better connect with your audience.
Filter Your Future, sponsored by Dialysis and Transplant Association of Victoria, partnered with SugarByHalf and Cool Australia in 2020 to create free online lessons for primary school teachers to present to students in Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2.
By teaming up, they were able to deliver online lessons that really spoke to their audience, and was accessible to teachers and student sanytime, anywhere.
“I am most proud of aligning our health promotion lessons to the Australian and New Zealand curriculum so that for the first time the global epidemic of weight-related chronic diseases is being linked to school curriculum,” said Yvonne Farquharson, Managing Director of Filter Your Future.
“[We’re] no longer waiting until adults develop preventable chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease, before targeted health promotion commences.”
Filter Your Future is aiming tocontinue on this journey, and develop further online teaching resources for Years 3 and 4 and Years 5 and 6 in 2021.
Helping Victorians get active during the pandemic
Being active looked very different in 2020, as community sport and organised recreation was affected by restrictions for most of the year.
But that didn’t stop you from inspiring communities to find different ways to exercise.
Sunraysia Community Health Services signed up an impressive1,200 people in their annual 28-day 10,000 steps challenge by having a bigger focus on promotion using tailored marketing approaches, and a consistent effort.
Participants in the challenge ended up doing 10,261 steps per day on average – a staggering increase given 66% of the people surveyed before the challenge said they were doing less than 10,000 steps per day on average.
Supporting fresh, local food
2020 also provided people the opportunity to think about healthy eating and where their food is sourced from.
In the bushfire-affected area of Towong in north-east Victoria, the North East Local Food Strategy framework has been developed to keep fresh food local, grow the local economy, reduce food waste, create new jobs and tackle the complex problem of climate change adaptation.
The Acres & Acres Food Co-operative was supported by Gateway Health to help bring the project to life.
“The townships now have a locally owned co-op with skilled, talented, passionate members and volunteers, who have banded together to support one another and ensure they are never without fresh food again,” said Health Promotion Team Leader Kylie Gibson from Gateway Health.
“By working together, they are creating a more resilient community with social connections, increasing the region's profile as they share their journey on social media.”
“Their recent success in securing a VicHealth Reimagining Health Grant will see their vision become a sustainable outcome.”
Key health promotion lessons from 2020
Think about ways to continually adapt. Although many health services and promoters have been able to move to COVID-normal, there might be ways of doing things which can be more efficient or effective because of how they were done in 2020.
Keep the community’s needs front of mind. Now is a good chance to look back on the work that has been done over the last 12 months and reflect on how well that addressed the needs of the community. Were needs met effectively? Is there a fresh approach which can help?
Continue to seek support. There were a number of examples of health promotion organisations joining together with partners such as VicHealth and sponsors to achieve fantastic health outcomes in Victorian communities. Remember to continue utilising these in 2021.
While 2020 was a challenging year, it was impressive to see so many people working to ensure health and wellbeing was a priority for all Victorians.
We know there will be even more exciting initiatives, programs and messages to share in 2021. Keep up the terrific work!
VicHealth would like to thank all those health professionals who took the time to respond to the Health Promotion Lessons 2020 survey which shaped this article. We wish everyone the best for 2021.