Information dissemination and awareness programs in corporate plans

Why is this important?

Promoting council facilities and activities increases people’s awareness of the services and liveability of a local government area, and often encourages people to use these facilities. There is emerging evidence that people’s perception of what is available for physical activity in their community is sometimes more important than having the opportunity in place. For instance, if there is new or existing physical activity infrastructure available to residents, but residents are not aware of its existence, they may not utilise it. The raised awareness is also useful in encouraging political interest, changing policy and providing positive role modelling.

Annual or once-off events can assist people in trying and/or starting physical activity. However, it is important that these are not the only activities undertaken by council to promote physical activity. Promotional activities need to be supported by other more sustainable initiatives to encourage long-term physical activity changes. This is a significant factor to keep in mind when prioritising resource allocation to increase physical activity

Increased participation in physical activity is good for your community. It can:

  • decrease the social and economic cost of illness
  • improve mental health and wellbeing in the community
  • create communities that are active and involved, and are good places to live
  • create economic benefits by encouraging people to walk and cycle which reduces demands on road systems, reducing need for costly road upgrades and less maintenance.26

Physical activity, along with other healthy lifestyle behaviours, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Physical activity also reduces stress, anxiety and depression, and protects against obesity. Levels of social connection also increase through participation in physical activity. Being socially connected is good for promoting mental health and wellbeing. (Active Living by Design)

Councils can adopt a provider role or facilitate, guide and support services and facilities that are provided by other groups.

Strategies

  1. Develop promotional materials, including maps of facilities and websites so people can search for and become more informed about events and opportunities for physical activity in their local area. Also, select appropriate distribution strategies for targeted community groups, by:
    • recreational facilities
    • botanic gardens and reserves
    • community gardens
    • bicycle racks
    • walking tracks
    • mountain bike trails
    • active transport facilities
    • producing a directory of physical activity facilities available in the local government area (hard copies and on the internet), including:
      (An example is the Gold Coast’s Get Active Gold Coast on-line directory (see http://www.getactivegoldcoast.com.au)

      • training customer service staff on physical activity facilities and events available in the local government area
      • preparing a signage strategy so people can easily find their way to, from and around physical activity facilities, locations and opportunities
  2. Undertake marketing and promotional campaigns (including linking with state, national and international social marketing events to ensure consistent messages) and support community events, such as:
    • annual fun runs
    • cycle/walk to work days and weeks – support local community organisations to organise such events (see http://www.bq.org.au)
    • Heart Foundation Walking program – work with the Heart Foundation to deliver this program to residents within the local government area (see case study) http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/walking
    • 10,000 Steps – an innovative community-based health promotion program focusing on increasing health-related physical activity (see case study and http://www.10000steps.org.au)
    • active and healthy lifestyle programs – provision of free or low cost activities at local facilities such as parks, community centres and libraries for key target groups such as seniors, youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, mothers groups and women. The activities encourage improved wellbeing, better health, personal interaction and enhanced physical and social skills (see Physical activity plan in the Operational Plan Tools section) for more information
  3. Encourage the community to be involved in planning and delivery by:
    • supporting the establishment of local community groups — such as physical activity community reference groups or community bicycle user groups (BUGs)
    • supporting sporting associations by sponsoring community sporting events — councils can benefit from the positive public relations of supporting these groups. Become known as a supporter (goal for corporate plan) by:
      • generating directories of local groups such as gardening, mothers with babies, youth mentoring, permaculture, road runners, hash house harriers
      • providing space on notice boards at council-owned facilities for these groups
    • providing space at council-owned facilities for meetings of these groups — including lunch box sessions and motivational talks issuing media releases on good activities

Case Studies

References

Active Living by Design Available at: http://www.activelivingbydesign.org/