Physical Activity and Active Communities
The work of HealthWest in this priority area of health and wellbeing focuses on building the capacity of organisations to work with our local communities in Melbourne’s west to increase their access to and participation in culturally acceptable, safe and affordable physical activity opportunities.
Our target groups are children and families, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and refugee communities, older adults, women and people who are socially disadvantaged.
Physical Inactivity and Burden of Disease
In Australia, physical inactivity accounts for direct health costs of approximately $400 million each year, ranking second to tobacco use as the most important issue for prevention (Bauman et al, 2002). In addition, $1.2 billion a year is spent by health services in relation to obesity and associated illnesses, making physical inactivity a very significant factor for health and wellbeing of individuals and communities (Commonwealth of Australia, 2006).
The National Physical Activity Survey (2000) assessment of physical activity participation, in accordance with the National Physical Activity Guidelines, found:
- Only 50.6% of the population with less than 12 years of education achieved ‘sufficient’ levels of physical activity compared to 58.8% for those with HSC or equivalent education and 62.3% with tertiary levels of education.
- People of non-English speaking backgrounds were less likely to report physical activity.
- Women, particularly those with children, reported less leisure-time physical activity than their single counterparts.
Low levels of physical activity are associated with an increased risk of: overweight and obesity across all ages, coronary heart disease (including high blood pressure and cholesterol), stroke, colon and breast cancer, depression, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis and injury
For the HealthWest’s local areas these chronic diseases and illnesses are prominent, indicating the importance of physical activity as a priority. The most prevalent diseases in Melbourne’s western communities are ischemic heart disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, stroke, lung disease, asthma, dementia and overweight and obesity.
For more detailed information, see the HealthWest Strategic Plan 2009–2012, Appendix 3: Population Health Data.
Objectives and Activities
- Improve the capacity of organisations to address access to and participation in culturally acceptable, safe and affordable physical activity opportunities through to June 2012.
- Coordinate and support the Maribrynong ‘Be Active, Eat Well’ project, Falls Prevention ‘Walk Tall, Don’t Fall’ project and ‘Making a Move’ project.
- Seek and support funding proposals that increase physical activity options for communities.
Outcomes expected include:
- Greater application of evidence to local settings and programs that support physical activity participation.
- Increased awareness of physical activity initiatives by organisations and communities throughout Melbourne’s west.
- Improved links between physical activity programs and direct service programs (for example, GPs) in our local communities.
- Ongoing and sustainable programs at the local level beyond 2012 that enable physical activity participation.