CEO Quarterly Update 2023 #5

Kelly Andrews, CEO Healthy Cities Illawarra

Last night’s 7.30 program’s lead story (yes, even before the sub-marines), was a story about growing food insecurity in Australia. About families growing hungrier, about charities stretched to provide food relief and the fact that as a society, we need to address this injustice. View here.

Food insecurity is associated with poor mental and physical health with approximately 800,000 adults per year experiencing food insecurity nationally, a number that is expected to rise. Vulnerable communities disproportionately experience barriers to accessing nutritionally adequate, safe, culturally appropriate and affordable food.

Healthy Cities Illawarra have been thought leaders in this space for decades. Food Fairness Illawarra is a community coalition that has worked together since 2005 to make healthy and sustainable food affordable and accessible for all and continues to keep food insecurity on the political and social agenda in our region. With a NSW election looming, Food Fairness Illawarra has worked with key partners to develop a “Food Score Card” to help summarise the major party’s policy positions on a range of systemic food issues – See here.

Another major piece in this puzzle is the role of Food Rescue and Food Donations. Manager of Food Security and Community Nutrition, Berbel Franse has been leading a pilot project for the NSW Environmental Protection Authority as the first region in NSW to explore whether a Regional Food Donation Coordinator is well positioned to increase connections and collaborations to ultimately increase the amount of edible food rescued from landfill to feed the increasing number of people in need. There is a lot of work to be done, but on 1st March, a Food Relief and Rescue Networking Event brought together 29 stakeholders including food rescue agencies, food relief organisations, the NSW Environmental Protection Authority, the Department of Communities and Justice, Healthy Cities Illawarra and the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District – to begin to collaborate and work together across our region to see what can be done.

As a member of the Public Health Association of Australia, Healthy Cities Illawarra supports the call on the NSW Government for an investment of 5% of the health budget to be spent on prevention initiatives.  Every dollar spent treating preventable chronic disease can be spent elsewhere returning $14 for every $1 spent in prevention.

This requires action outside of the health system – a cross-sectoral approach between all levels of government and all government departments. This is something Healthy Cities Illawarra does well.

Established in 1987, HCI completely unique; there is no other regional health promotion charity respected by, and well connected with State and Local Governments, community and health services, other health and environmental charities and the commercial sectors which has the breadth of impact as HCI does.

HCI’s base funding from NSW Health NGO program was $281,490 p/a in 1998 and is now only $286,800 p/a. As such, core funding has remained unchanged over the past 25 years. As a result, HCI is 95% reliant on grants to deliver innovative and effective initiatives, which is both unsustainable and short-sighted.

Chronic conditions are not inevitable. They are preventable. Yet they are #1 killer – 85% of the burden of disease and 9 in 10 deaths. Every dollar spent treating preventable chronic disease can be spent elsewhere in the health system. We need to value health over illness and call on governments to invest in prevention. See The Illawarra Mercury Story here.

And finally, a good news story! To celebrate International Women’s Week and Multicultural March, on Sun Mar 5th, together with partners MCCI SCARFMargaret BiggsEdmund Rice CollegeRotary Club of Fairy MeadowCatholic Womens LeagueCatholic Diocese of Wollongong, we hosted the second annual Illawarra Women’s Day of Dance of Culture.

Around 350 women and children attended this pay as you feel/pay it forward event aimed at encouraging women from all backgrounds and diverse cultures who may not have opportunities to socialise with other women to get out into the community and make friendly connections. Our aim is to foster social connection and inclusion in an affordable and accessible way to allow women to come together in a safe place to connect and talk, listen, learn from each other and enjoy a simple, but rich afternoon of food and dance – and all the while learning more about good health.

Special thanks to our sponsors: BlueScopeWINM2KitchenColliers Wollongong & Dignam Bulli 

Finally, on behalf of the HCI Board, staff and volunteers, I am proud to be a Finalist in the IWIB Outstanding Charity 2023 category. I consider myself a pretty big underdog, but I believe in this organisation’s purpose.

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

Healthy regards,