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Prevention Tracker project learns from local wisdom

8 October 2015

The Prevention Centre is working with a Tasmanian community on a pilot study that aims to map and learn from local prevention activities to build a comprehensive picture of an effective prevention system.

The project, dubbed Prevention Tracker, is a proof-of-concept pilot study based in Glenorchy, on the northern edge of Hobart.

Project leader Associate Professor Sonia Wutzke said the project would help the Prevention Centre in its key aim to better understand what does or doesn’t work to prevent chronic disease.

“In Glenorchy, with a population of 45,000 people, we’ve identified at least 40 programs, and about 30 different organisations trying to improve the health of this community,” said Associate Professor Wutzke, who is also Deputy Director of the Prevention Centre. “We need to better understand all these programs and organisations and how they connect and influence each other. We are finding out what can enable those programs and what will help them be more effective and sustainable.”

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Elisa Ryan

Elisa Ryan, of Glenorchy City Council, has been working with the Prevention Centre on the project. Ms Ryan joined Glenorchy City Council in 2011 as Healthy Communities Coordinator. The aim of this position was to implement ‘Glenorchy on the Go’, a federally funded program to engage community members in healthy lifestyle activities, campaigns and events.

Tight-knit community

Ms Ryan said the success of this program made Glenorchy a good candidate for the Prevention Tracker pilot. “Glenorchy is a disadvantaged area, with high rates of unemployment, obesity and chronic disease, but we’re also a tight-knit community,” she said. “Glenorchy on the Go was successful because the council worked from the grassroots to engage the community.”

She said a key example of a successful program was the Ambassadors project, which trained 21 volunteers tasked with getting the community involved in healthy activities.

“The biggest success was the sense of belonging for people who joined activities and groups,” Ms Ryan said. “A lot of programs have been oversubscribed and we’ve reached people who would not normally have participated.”

Associate Professor Wutzke said Prevention Tracker would do a number of things to map and explore prevention activities in Glenorchy including:

  • Develop an atlas of Glenorchy to illustrate liveability indicators such as the density of alcohol outlets, fast food outlets, supermarkets and green grocers, access to GPs and hospitals, and access to parks and green spaces
  • Interview community leaders in Glenorchy about their organisation’s work in prevention
  • Work with a team from Deakin University to conduct two workshops with key community leaders, to build a group model of the local prevention system and identify key actions for change.

Ms Ryan said the Council welcomed the opportunity to be involved in Prevention Tracker because it was mapping activities that contributed to chronic disease prevention in the Glenorchy area.

“That mapping exercise is really important as it can help us to identify gaps in our community,” she said. “It can also demonstrate how well the community is doing in prevention, which might help if there are any opportunities for further funding.”

National initiative

Associate Professor Wutzke said if the pilot study in Glenorchy showed that the process was feasible and helped to influence positive changes, the Prevention Centre would consider replicating it a number of other communities across Australia.

Through these communities, Prevention Tracker would become a national initiative for monitoring the quantity, nature and variation in efforts to improve health and wellbeing of populations. “Ultimately, we will pool and use what we learn from local communities to encourage action at local, state and national levels that will strengthen systems for the prevention of lifestyle-related chronic disease,” she said.

Ms Ryan said Prevention Tracker was a fantastic recognition of Glenorchy’s work in healthy living and chronic disease prevention.

“Glenorchy on the Go started being run by people paid to do the work, but it was and continues to be successful because the community embraced it,” she said. “If Prevention Tracker puts Glenorchy on the map for a good reason, that’s even better.”

Marge Overs, Communications Manager