CEO Quarterly Update December 2023

Kelly Andrews, CEO Healthy Cities Illawarra

Firstly, may I present to you the 2022-23 Annual Report for Healthy Cities Illawarra! (HCI). It’s not a bad read – it’s always a worthwhile exercise in teamwork and celebration to write the Annual Report and I’m proud to share with you some stories of resilience, innovation, and progress that define our commitment to healthier, happier communities.

In coming to the end of 2023, I feel an equal energy for the pursuit of social justice and health for all AND cultivating inner peace. Like most people, I have felt helpless and hopeless this year against the backdrop of unspeakable warfare, an emphatic NO vote in the Voice to Parliament referendum, and more and more people in our very rich and lucky country without enough food to eat or a roof over their head. But I’m also pumped for 2024 – I can’t wait to enjoy some time off over summer and come back ready to go again – I’ll have some exciting new initiatives to reveal! I’ll be re-charging my batteries, filling my cup, realigning my chakras and any other pearls of wisdom I can draw from ready to lead the team in the never-ending battle against the social and commercial determinants of health!You’ve heard me bang on about the social determinants before – those pesky conditions and environments where people live that impact on a big bunch of health and disease patterns and quality of life outcomes. They’re also linked to violence.

  • Higher levels of income inequality are associated with higher rates of violence. Economic disparities can lead to frustration, resentment, and social unrest.
  • Inadequate healthcare can contribute to a cycle of poverty and violence.
  • Lower levels of education are often linked to increased rates of violence.
  • Unstable or inadequate housing conditions can lead to stress and insecurity and unsafe conditions.
  • Limited access to healthcare services can lead to untreated mental health issues and substance abuse, which are risk factors for violence.
  • Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or other factors can lead to social exclusion and increased vulnerability to violence. It can also contribute to a sense of injustice, which may manifest in violent behaviors.

I mention this because on 2nd Dec, our local media reported that 39yr old mother of two, Kristie McBride, died from her injuries sustained during that awful stabbing brawl a week earlier. Read hereIt is a cruel and devastating tragedy; unfathomable that children are responsible. The attack took place on Bundaleer Housing Estate in Warrawong, about 30minutes after the HCI team from Active In-Betweens had left their usual Wednesday afternoon of program delivery. On behalf of HCI, I extend our deepest sympathies to Kristie’s family and friends in what must be an unimaginable pain they are going through.As a community, we must do better.HCI has run the Active In-Betweens after-school program for 8-12-year-olds on the Bundaleer Estate since 2018. It is an area of high need. We like to talk about ‘protective factors’ in the social health scene – attributes that can help people deal with adversity, lower the risk of poor behaviours and generally promote health. Our Active In-Betweens program is designed to do this.Unfortunately, funding is neither stable nor secure. The Bolsta Fundraising Raffle is a small way that you can help us to stay working with the children on the Bundaleer Estate. The next big cash prize will be drawn on 29th Feb 2024.  In the meantime, we will work hard with Barnardos South Coast and others  to continue to advocate to the NSW State government for funding – after all, investment in prevention and early intervention will not only save them (and all of us) a lot of money, but it also contributes to safer, healthier, happier communities and we mustn’t take that for granted.

Public health interventions that focus on reducing inequalities, improving access to education and healthcare, and creating supportive social environments can contribute to a safer and healthier society.We can all help in creating supportive environments – this Sunday Dec 10 is Human Rights Day, and also the conclusion of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence against women and girls.A shout out to Shellharbour Council and their collaborators in developing the new podcast series, Agents for Change. If you don’t know where to start in wanting to reduce violence against women, and contributing to a more peaceful community, then I invite you to simply listen to a podcast. Small, but significant steps.Now, back to that inner-peace thing – which is a nice thing to end on as we come into the holiday season, no matter what your belief system is, or lack thereof. A friend has recently made me aware of the Inner Development Goals (IDGs) to help accelerate the work towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is definitely worth a look is really just acknowledging that we all have strengths and skills in us as individuals that need to be harnessed to bring about transformational and sustainable change, personally and globally. Locally, you might be interested in the work of Illawarra People 4 Peace, a small group of people offering a movement for peace, one small act and one person at a time.Wishing everyone a healthy, safe and peaceful holiday season and looking forward to all the new opportunities that the new year will bring.Thank you for taking the time to read my quarterly update.Healthy regards,Kelly