CEO Quarterly Update March 2024

Kelly Andrews, CEO Healthy Cities Illawarra

Many people in Wollongong fondly remember the ‘asthma pools’ and I found this clip in the UOW archives from a 1969 WIN News story from when fundraising efforts were in full swing to build them. It was a time when swimming was seen as especially beneficial for children with asthma – in fact, exercise in general is good for asthma, but many people with asthma report that indoor swimming, with warmer, moister air is easier to breathe.

Australia has one of the highest asthma rates in the world – it is a condition of the airways which makes it harder to breathe and symptoms are different for different people; they might include coughing, wheezing, being short of breath or general tightness in the chest. It is a serious condition which leads to approx. 400 deaths per year, nationally. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be well managed to keep people active, well and out of hospital.

HCI has a long history of working on asthma related projects and initiatives (see snippet from a 1992 report!), so, when Asthma Australia began early consultations regarding the Breathe Better in the Gong project in early 2023, the foundation for a successful partnership was quickly identified.

So, I am excited to announce that we have signed a partnership agreement with Asthma Australia, as reported in The Illawarra Mercury. Recruitment is currently underway to identify our new team member who will take the lead in creating an ‘Asthma Smart Community’ in Wollongong, taking a systems change approach to address the deeper causes of problems across all parts of the asthma system and help children and families with asthma better understand their asthma experiences and the drivers that lead towards asthma flare ups and hospital presentations. The program is possible thanks to the bequest of Pearl Sheppard who created the Pearl Sheppard Trust.

In March, we hosted the 3rd annual Illawarra Womens Day of Dance and Culture!
Over 250 women from diverse backgrounds gathered together at Wollongong Town Hall to share a delicious meal from Balinese Spice Magic, celebrate cultural dance, meet new friends and have the opportunity to learn more about the information and services provided by local women’s health and support services. We were lucky to have Dr Aunty Joyce Donovan with us who gave an empowering and impassioned opening speech, celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and educational achievements.

Events such as these are important to bring together individuals and organisations committed to advancing women’s rights and gender equality. They provide networking opportunities for women from diverse backgrounds to connect, collaborate, and provide a sense of solidarity and support. By fostering a sense of community and collaboration, the IWDDC 2024 strengthens the collective efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable society. A heartfelt thanks to our volunteer organising committee and sponsors for making this special event possible.

Read from the perspective of Natasha, our Healthy Cities Volunteer

Finally, I am proud to lead HCI as a Finalist in the 2024 IWIB Business Woman of the Year Awards in the IWIB Outstanding Charity / Not for Profit 2024 category!  What sets us apart? That we are in the business of prevention rather than treatment, health rather than illness. We are broad and not narrow in focus. We are leaders in collective impact and inter-sectoral collaboration. We are an investment in the future.

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

Healthy regards,