Healthy Cities Illawarra seeks partners

Healthy Cities Illawarra opened its new office in Fairy Meadow this month.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, Maree Kerr and Laura Ruiz at Healthy City Illawarra's new office on the Princes Highway, Fairy Meadow.Picture: GREG ELLIS

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, Maree Kerr and Laura Ruiz at Healthy City Illawarra's new office on the Princes Highway, Fairy Meadow.Picture: GREG ELLIS

General manager Maree Kerr said the region's 28-year-old Healthy Cities program was the longest running in the world, but the 11-member team was always looking for funding.

"When we want to run programs, most of the time we have to go out and source funds to run these programs," she said.

"And our partnerships are the key to their success. We are very different to every other Healthy Cities in the world. All other Healthy Cities are run through local government. We make the most and best of what we have.

"[We] also have a disease prevention arm called Healthy People Illawarra. We have had to separate the two businesses because of the tax legislation. We are a charity. I know everyone is scrutinising every dollar, but if you do hear of anybody who is looking for a charity that is quite different ... and works across several local government areas, we are always happy for you to fly the flag for us."

Ms Kerr said Healthy Cities Illawarra offered programs in many areas that provided a positive impact in Wollongong, Shellharbour and Shoalhaven.

They include community building, making spaces more child-friendly in the Illawarra, healthy urban design, environmental health, working with community groups, government and business to promote the long-term environmental health of the region, a Wollongong CBD walkability audit, and active tourism potential for the region.

Other projects deal with community safety; educate and update child and family service providers, parents and carers on ways to prevent unintentional child injuries; healthy ageing; and providing support services to men from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities and people with mental illness or with disabilities through a "Men's Shed" environment.

The Wollongong office is also involved in the development of the Healthy Cities movement locally, nationally and globally, and is an active member of the steering committee of the Alliance for Healthy Cities.

The alliance operates in the area covered by the Western Pacific region of the World Health Organisation.

There are also Healthy People Illawarra programs on community nutrition; a "Stir It Up" healthy eating peer-education project conducted in Wollongong, Shellharbour and the Shoalhaven; a Food Fairness Illawarra community-based alliance promoting healthy food for all; a Budding Chefs program establishing school-based kitchen garden and cooking programs in the Shoalhaven; physical activity programs such as the Horsley Outdoor Krew, which engages young people by providing positive activities and role modelling; and Play Illawarra, which maintains a website of over 340 outdoor play spaces and receives an average of 54,000 hits a month.

There is also a sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention program and education on sexual health issues through various programs, information sharing and the provision of resources.

There is a tobacco control program called Smoke Free Illawarra that works towards reducing the prevalence of smoking in the community.

Mental health and wellbeing is also a focus of Healthy Cities Illawarra, and a Coniston Men's Shed aims to reduce depression, social isolation and anxiety.


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