CEO Quarterly Update 2023 #6

Kelly Andrews, CEO Healthy Cities Illawarra

I’m going to get straight to the point – this gig is hard. Despite being established for over 36 years, Healthy Cities Illawarra is still relatively unknown, misunderstood, and undervalued. Our core funding has not increased in 26 years. We are not as sexy as other causes, and we certainly don’t have the public profile.

So, it was a real delight to be presented a Highly Commended Award in the 2023 Illawarra Women in Business Awards Outstanding Charity category on Friday 5th May, a rare opportunity for recognition. Thank you to the Illawarra Women in Business for creating opportunities for women to connect and learn, and support each other and a special thanks to Wollongong Diagnostics for kind sponsorship of the award.

Let me tell you what makes us different. Quite simply, our focus is on the prevention of chronic disease, not treatment. It’s cheaper, more cost effective, keeps people out of hospital, reduces the burden on overstretched health services and allows people to live healthier, more productive lives.

It sounds simple, but it’s not.

It’s not sexy and it requires a long-term view and long-term investment which is a hard sell in a three-year political cycle where the beds in hospital, nurse to patient ratios, ED waiting times and essentially an acute health system in crisis – gets all the immediate attention and 99% of the budget. Hospital spending has skyrocketed but despite the millions of dollars spent on treatment, the situation is not improving.

  • Chronic disease makes up 85% of the burden of disease (and has increased 38% in the last three decades).
  • Chronic disease contributes to 9 in 10 deaths.
  • Chronic diseases cost more than $70 billion annually.
  • More than 80% of an individual’s health is caused by factors outside of health care.
  • Disease prevention reduces the cost of ambulances, emergency and hospital admissions, returning $14 for every $1 invested.
  • Without intervention, the costs will increase – billions.
  • Without intervention, more people, families and communities will suffer.
  • Prevention programs are cost effective.

Risk factors for chronic disease are not inevitable – they can be changed – disease and suffering can be prevented. And chronic diseases are no fault of individuals and families. When you look at the huge amount of pervasive marketing and advertising of unhealthy products and behaviours rammed down our throats every day – it’s hardly a fluke.

Alcohol companies, junk food, gambling and tobacco companies return billions in profits making us sick. But Healthy Cities Illawarra continues to lose program funding, like Cook Chill Chat.

On the surface it may look like a cooking program, but it is much more than that. For 8 years, it successfully reached its target audience of vulnerable populations -95% of them women– refugees, CALD communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, women escaping domestic violence, women requiring mental and emotional health support. The cost of running a 6-week program for up to 15 participants is just shy of $7,000. The average cost of a hospital stay for one person in a major public hospital is $4,680.

So please get behind us. Follow and share our socials, sign up for our communications, attend our events, and consider making a tax-deductible donation. If there are any corporates in this audience interested in sponsoring one of our programs or initiatives, please get in touch – I’d love to share more about our work.

Thank you for taking the time to read my quarterly update.

Healthy regards,