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With a high level of socio-economic disadvantage across the region and a high proportion of elderly and young people, South Burnett Regional Council has been very proactive in planning, promoting and delivering healthy community initiatives. In 2008, the Healthy Communities Committee was established and 2010 saw the release of the South Burnett Regional Council Healthy Communities Plan, which provides a policy framework to achieve the vision of a ‘region of active and healthy communities’.
A key initiative of the Healthy Communities Plan is a partnership with local organisations to develop and deliver programs which encourage healthy eating and a greater focus on nutrition in the region. These programs include Good Food Choices, Growing the Burnett and Healthy Food Access Basket which are designed to increase the community’s access to healthy food options across the South Burnett region. South Burnett Regional Council would like to acknowledge RHealth for designing and delivering the Good Food Choices program. An agricultural district that exports its produce nationally and internationally, South Burnett covers 8399 km2 on the Great Dividing Range and is bordered on the south-west by the Bunya Mountains. South Burnett’s population of 31,028 (Census 2011) live in the primary centre of Kingaroy, Blackbutt, Murgon, Nanango, Proston and Wondai, as well as smaller villages throughout the region.
The Healthy Food programs demonstrate:
- the benefits of partnerships to create strong support networks to achieve an active and healthy community
- the importance of identifying common goals through strategic policies and plans
- the importance of tailoring programs to best fit the needs and demographics of the community
- the recognition of the link between healthy lifestyles, economic prosperity and social emotional wellbeing.
What we have done so far
- Formalised the Healthy Communities Committee which includes representatives from council and a range of government and non-government organisations, including Active South Burnett, RHealth, CTC Youth Services, Rotary, South Burnett PCYC and South Burnett Community Network.
- Introduced the Good Food Choices program which encourages local food business to introduce dishes which are low in fat or use healthy fats, low in salt and sugar, a good source of fibre and include at least one serve of vegetables. In exchange, businesses receive reduced council licensing fees and free promotion of their business by council.
- Funded the Healthy Food Access Basket program which involved assessing the ease of access and affordability of good quality food in each town in the region to identify gaps and address community demand.
- Promoted and supported Growing the Burnett which assists local farmers by encouraging them to plant crops based on community need and promoting the benefits of purchasing fresh, locally grown produce to the community.
What we have achieved so far
- Increased healthy food choices in Kingaroy food outlets, with 12 businesses accredited by the Good Food Choices program as at September 2013.
- Better access to affordable fresh, seasonal, regional food that is direct from grower to consumer.
- Local economic development through fresh food markets and support for small crop farming.
- Contribution to a resilient, prosperous and sustainable region built on agriculture, the natural environment and diverse communities.
- Progress towards reduced levels of depression and suicide in the community through promoting a healthier lifestyle.
What we have learnt so far
- Linking healthy eating options to economic and social benefits broadens community interest.
- Social, emotional and mental wellbeing are fundamental to healthy eating and, in turn, the health of any community.
- Regional communities with higher populations have a lower interest in the use and promotion of community gardens that are located in local parks or other green spaces. School-based community gardens are more successful.
- Important to formalise partnerships in preparation for unexpected changes in staff or funding
What we are planning to do next
- Establish community gardens within primary and secondary schools in regions with larger populated towns.
- Promote the current Healthy Communities activities more broadly to smaller towns within the region.
- Increase the number of businesses taking part in the Good Food Choices program, particularly in other towns in the region.
What you can do
- Establish a committee of stakeholders to guide community strategic planning and monitor actions to improve community health and wellbeing.
- Map the community’s needs and identify any gaps in community services to inform better strategic planning in the area of health and wellbeing.
- Strengthen local networks and partnerships to deliver more sustainable outcomes and make use of local knowledge and resources.
- Use existing community events to promote new programs.
Council project contact:Kerry Oldfield
Healthy Communities Coordinator
South Burnett Regional Council
T: 07 4189 9412