The Australian Population Health Congress held in Adelaide 21-23 September was one of the better conferences I’ve been to. There seemed to be less ‘grandstanding’ and genuine will and momentum for progressive, organised and systemic action to address climate change and embed Aboriginal teachings as a way to achieve health justice for people and the planet. But of course, it requires proper and respectful funding. I will be watching the delivery of tonight’s Federal Budget with hope, optimism and anticipation – there has to be urgent investment in prevention and health promotion, and in Active Transport policy. As one of my colleagues in the conference audience articulated, ‘a good economy is a by-product of good public health, not the other way around’.
Prevention and health promotion are always overlooked in health budgets, or any budget for that matter; Healthy Cities Illawarra has not received an increase in core funding in over 24 years and the exhausting and uncertain grant environment is as untenable as it is demoralising for an established, credible and evidence-based local organisation. We cannot keep pumping money into the acute sector indefinitely; it will be interesting to see if the Budget reflects the commitment to a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and if so, in what form? Our health system is in crisis and the only way to stem the bleeding is to invest in preventative policies, strategies and programs, something that we know a little something about. Census data clearly demonstrates that social determinants of health matter – I commented in this excellent article about income and health which highlights the disparities on a local level.
Recently, we were fortunate to work with Why Documentaries recently to develop this clip to help tell our story and we’d really love to share it with you and let you know we are always open to partnerships and collaboration.
One of our most exciting collaborations recently has of course been with the fantastic team at Destination Wollongong as they gathered hundreds of businesses and community organisations together to collectively join in the journey of delivering the Wollongong 2022 UCI World Road Cycling Championships. The City of Wollongong put on a spectacular show, and it certainly made cycling the topic of conversation. Many of the comments towards the event and the cyclists on social media were distressing, destructive and callous. Australia certainly does not accept a culture of bikes as transport, and for many reasons, this is something that we need to change. HCI has been successful in receiving UCI Legacy Funding to continue programs which advocate for better active transport infrastructure and safer environments for people to walk and cycle for short trips, especially for children to get to and from school and for students and staff to get to UOW. We need to continue to have this public conversation about how we move about our cities – see this excellent piece from George Takacs in The Mercury on Thursday 6 October.
Perhaps one of our most important pieces of work to help start to change cultural attitudes and perceptions around people who cycle is our campaign More than a Cyclist. Launched on the 26th September, the campaign aims to put a human face to local people who ride bikes, to dispel the myth that they are all lycra-clad and to highlight that they are ordinary people going about their daily lives. You can read an excellent piece about the campaign here.