Obesity levels continue to rise across Australia and it appears that this is unfortunately not something the Southern Grampians Shire and Glenelg Shire residents are not immune to. As it stands, both the Southern Grampians Shire and Glenelg Shire are approximately 10% above the state average with regards to overweight and obesity levels.

A New Approach

When looking at what can be done to address the problem, the evidence for what was successful proved to be really quite limited. Accordingly, it was decided that rather than repeat what is known to not work, a new innovative and adaptive approach be adopted that utilises elements from the most promising interventions from around the world.

It was decided that this new approach be launched and implemented at a single site. The subsequent learnings from the implementation then facilitate adjustments in the approach before it is then re-launched in a second site and so on – a step wedge approach.

Portland was nominated to be the first site; enter SEA Change Portland.

SEA (Sustained Eating and Activity) Change Portland

For all intent and purpose, this approach is really quite different to anything that has been done in the past. In understanding what exactly this new approach is, it is sometimes easier to detail what it is not.

  • This is not a project or a program.
  • It is not based on funding
  • It does not have a defined start or end date
  • It is a fluid and adaptive process that does not follow a prescribed sequence
  • It is certainly not business as usual

On the contrary, this approach is a new way of doing things.

Step 1: Establish a Working Group

The first step was to establish a functioning working group to help drive this new initiative through the initial stages of development and community engagement.

The working group is made up of representatives from the Glenelg Shire Council, Portland District Health, Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly and Community Health Service (DWECH) and the SGG PCP.

Step 2: Pre-Workshop Meetings

This step consisted of a series of small workshops with local community leaders to help develop an understanding of all of the factors that influence healthy eating and active living in the Portland community.

This was a particularly critical step in understanding the obesity problem from a local context and hearing directly from the community regarding the issue.

Step 3: Community Workshops

Following on from the initial work that had been done in the pre-workshop meetings, in July 2014, Deakin University facilitated two larger workshops with a broad cross section of the Portland community.

The first workshop further developed the healthy eating and active living picture and provided a high degree of clarity into the magnitude and complexity of all of the influences that impact on healthy eating and active living.

In the second workshop, the Portland community identified and prioritised Portland specific action ideas that would enhance healthy eating and active living opportunities. It was also at this workshop that community members identified what they were willing and able to do to take action at an individual level

Step 4 a): Coordinated Action

Building on the prioritised areas for action identified in the Community Workshops, a systematic process is being implemented that is seeing the specific action ideas progressively addressed in conjunction with key community members and the Working Group

Step 4 b): Maintaining the Momentum

From the actions that individual community members were willing to undertake, attempts to encourage these individual actions, as well as engage the broader community to commit to change has been made via means of a regular radio program on 3RPC Community Radio, development and ongoing usage of the SEA Change Portland Facebook page, blog and website.

Step 5: Portland Community Strengthening Conversation

This is the next step and is scheduled to be implemented in late November 2014.

The Community Conversation aims to engage community leaders – including those that were at the previous workshops and are actively involved with agencies working in the healthy eating and physical activity space, as well as community leaders that may not be traditionally thought of in this context, but are valuable assets to the Portland community.

This workshop will seek to connect the community leaders with common interests and to mobilise ideas, skills and passions.

The Steps Beyond…

This innovative approach is very fluid and adaptive. The precluding steps will be determined by the community need, interests and capacity. So watch this space.

Visit www.seachangeportland.com.au for more local information and stories.

GenR8 Change

Less than 12 months after the systems thinking approach to obesity prevention was adopted by the Portland community, the Southern Grampians Region followed and the GenR8 Change initiative emerged.

GenR8 Change is a social movement aimed towards empowering our local community to make sustainable changes, so the healthier choice becomes the easier choice throughout the Southern Grampians, especially for children. The GenR8 Change approach was developed after recent data surrounding weights and health behaviours of our children revealed statistics less than ideal.

Find out more about GenR8 Change through the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aVRKy6nLGU

A tremendous local effort has seen over 250 community members become involved in GenR8 change thus far. Over two initial workshops the community were taken on an interactive journey about the health status of our children, and became involved in analysing a range of complex factors that contribute to poor health status of children within the Southern Grampians. At the initial workshops, common areas of interest were posed, with several community members expressing a drive to come together and create impact under a number of relevant themes.

Two follow-up workshops again proved the outstanding commitment of our local community with great attendance and enthusiasm at each.  Over 50 action ideas were generated at these workshops under 13 different themes. The following are just a snap shot of ideas being actioned:

  • Banning sugary drinks in junior sporting clubs and associations
  • Creating a safe community space for breastfeeding mothers and families
  • Making healthy eating part of the family day-care policy
  • Working with Wannon Water and schools to develop water only policies and practices within all education settings
  • Establishing safe active transport routes for schools

Since these ideas were generated, the GenR8 Change community have celebrated numerous ‘wins’ with some great change achieved by the community so far:

  • Western District Health Service have discontinued the sale of sugary drinks across all their campuses
  • Dunkeld Consolidated School have begun running a ‘Bike Bus’ to encourage active transport to and from school
  • Out of School Hours care have made healthy catering changes and began incorporating healthy cooking classes into their after school care programs
  • Numerous local Primary School canteen and lunch order menus have been revised

To find out more about GenR8 Change, or become involved visit their website at www.genr8change.com, like GenR8Change on Facebook or follow them on twitter @Genr8Change.