Health initiative does poorly

A health initiative launched in Invercargill four years ago has yet to deliver marked improvement in the city residents’ wellbeing, a new report says.

Healthy Families was launched in 10 centres, including Invercargill, in late 2014,  intended to improve long-term  health trends.

Centres with notably higher rates of risk factors for preventable chronic diseases or high levels of deprivation were selected.

Invercargill was identified as having obesity and smoking issues.

The Ministry of Health  just released a Massey University study evaluating  Healthy Families centre progress.

It said Invercargill showed a worsening trend in adult bodyweight, and no centres showed a worsening trend in tobacco use.

"Healthy Families Invercargill did not show improvement in any of the risk factor groupings," the report said.

It was one of four locations with evidence of worsening adult nutrition,  a lack of vegetables  a constant theme.

Child nutrition was also worsening, and that was reflected in poor dental health among 4-year-olds.

The city’s residents fared better when it came to physical activity, although children’s exercise rates were not ideal.

Healthy Families is intended to be a step away from campaigns on single chronic diseases or health issues, and instead takes a "whole-of-community approach" driven by locals.

The report’s recommendations included ensuring all Healthy Families location teams had the right skills to work with community leaders and engage with locals, and that communications be improved.

It also called for mental health and/or wellbeing to be added to the programme’s focus areas, and that barriers to community action on the availability of alcohol be addressed.

In all areas efforts had been made to prioritise Maori health concerns, and the report recommended this continue.

Positive initiatives in Invercargill included hui on hazardous drinking, the establishment of a community events network, and an initiative to make sausage sizzles healthier which had been picked by other Healthy Families locations and by district health boards.

"It is clear for most Healthy Families locations, that the teams are making a difference in their communities," the report said.

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