This year has been one of continual challenges for Victorians. From devastating bushfires, followed by a first wave of the coronvairus pandemic that impacted the nation, to a second wave that placed a magnifying glass on our state.
Our lives were impacted on every front, and while panic and anger often gained media attention, we heard countless stories of selfless generosity by many communities helping those who were doing it toughest.
Coronavirus and inequity
Our Coronavirus Impact Wellbeing Survey articulated this by demonstrating that the indirect impacts of the pandemic were nuanced and borne unequally.
While Victorians struggled to maintain social connections and stay active, they reported enjoying the newfound time they spent with family and the flexibility of working from home.
However, some Victorians faced greater barriers than others with young women, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, and Victorians receiving Jobseeker or Jobkeeper support all reporting greater adverse economic, social and indirect health impacts from the pandemic.
Focusing on young people
Like many others, we at VicHealth were particularly concerned with the effects of the pandemic on young people. Disruptions to education, missing out on key rites of passages including graduation, and disconnection from peers have all resulted in a difficult year for many young Victorians.
A joint study with the Burnet Institute, Young people coping with coronavirus, found that of more than 2000 young Victorians, the leading cause of anxiety was disruptions to education. Those who were in the 15-19 year old age group and non-binary young people reported highest rate of loneliness, compared to their peers.
These alarming results propelled us into further action as we were faced with the immediate and essential support that communities across Victoria required.
New partnership grants
In September, we launched the Reimagining Health: A VicHealth Partnership Grant, our largest ever funding round. Informed by our survey results, we called for community-owned solutions to address three key areas:
- building meaningful social connection
- safeguarding food security
- providing opportunities for physical activity in a restricted environment.
The demand was unprecedented, resulting in us increasing the existing funding pool to $3.9m. We are delighted that we could support innovative, locally-led organisations who have worked tirelessly to care for their communities during a demanding year.
In 2020, we have also felt fortunate to support the new and innovative ways that Victorians have found to stay active. Our “pivoted” This Girl Can - Victoria campaign reached a record breaking 320,000 women across the state, transitioning online and encouraging them to be active and move during the pandemic.
Life and health reimagined
Listening and learning from communities was and always will be a priority for VicHealth.
Combining this with guidance from academic experts, prominent thinkers and those who have extensive experience leading government, organisations and communities through challenging times has been vital in working for an equitable recovery for all Victorians.
In June we launched the Life and Health Reimagined Series asking us all to consider how we could rebuild this world to centre health, not just for some Victorians but for all. Leading Australian and global experts discussed the need for social, food systems and employment reform that focuses on human wellbeing.
A recurring theme was health equity. In one webinar, Professor Sir Michael Marmot urged us to “create the conditions for people to have the capability to lead lives they have reason to value”. These lively and provocative discourses culminated in a call for a transilient approach to recovery, one that carries forward practices that promote wellbeing and let go of ones that are detrimental to physical and mental health.
2021 and beyond
VicHealth’s ability to advocate for key issues discussed during the series will now benefit not only Victorians but communities globally with our announcement of a world-first partnership between VicHealth and UNICEF. This will support world-leading Victorian research, pilot community approaches to inform global practice, and leverage UNICEF’s global expertise in maternal and child nutrition for Victorian families.
Among the highlights that have been reflected on, we are closing out the year with an exciting ‘high’ with the recent appointment of our new board chair the Honourable Nicola Roxon. Formerly federal Minister for Health and Attorney General, the guidance provided by Nicola Roxon will be crucial as we continue to serve Victorians in 2021 and beyond.
From the entire team at VicHealth, we wish every Victorian a safe and happy end to the year with friends and family. We also want to thank the thousands of organisations and individuals who worked tirelessly to support the health and wellbeing of Victorian communities in 2020.
We hope that 2021 brings a year of stability and security for Victorians as we see an equitable, health-focused recovery become a reality.
To view VicHealth's Annual Report, click here