Victorian Health Promotion Foundation
|Founder(s)||Government of Victoria|
|Headquarters||15-31 Pelham St, Carlton, Victoria, Australia|
|Key people||Jerril Rechter (CEO)|
|Net income||A$41.5 million (2013) |
|Parent||Department of Health|
The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation is a statutory authority in the Australian state of Victoria, originally funded by hypothecated taxation raised by the Victorian Tobacco Act 1987. It was the first health promotion body in the world to be funded by a tax on tobacco.
Better known as VicHealth, the organisation has a mandate to promote good health for all Victorians. With a focus on promoting good health and preventing chronic disease, it leads and advocates for excellence in health-promoting policies and programs.
Founding and early history (1987-1997)
In 1987, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) was established with funding from government-collected tobacco taxes and mandated to promote health in the State of Victoria.
In 1988, VicHealth moved to buy out tobacco company sponsorship of sport and the arts. As a result, Quit, Heart Health and other health promotion programs replaced tobacco sponsorships. The Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria (now the Cancer Council Victoria) received funding from VicHealth to run its SunSmart and Quit programs and VicHealth funded the ﬁrst Victorian breast cancer screening program.
In 1989, VicHealth funded significant research into Alzheimer’s disease at the Mental Health Research Institute.
In 1994, VicHealth held its first national conference to examine the pioneering developments of working with sport and art organisations to promote health. VicHealth also funded the research arm of the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre, a program aimed to increase the capacity to intervene and prevent youth suicide.
In 1996, VicHealth was recognised with the World Health Organization Medal for Excellence and the Active for Life program launched in schools to teach children about making exercise a healthy lifetime habit to prevent heart disease.
In 1998-1999, VicHealth launched the Koori Health Research and Community Development Unit and the Mental Health Promotion Plan for Victoria; focusing on social connection, freedom from discrimination and economic participation as major factors impacting on mental health.
In 2000, The VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control opened, focusing on legal, economic and social research to strengthen tobacco control initiatives.
In 2001, smokefree dining in Victoria was introduced and the Together We Do Better campaign was launched; promoting mental health and wellbeing.
In 2002-2003, VicHealth joined forces with education, adolescent and welfare organisations to highlight bullying behaviour as a significant mental health issue and launched Leading the Way; working with councils to create healthier communities, and provide a resource to better equip councils to identify and respond to the built, social, economic and environmental issues that affect health and wellbeing in communities.
In 2006, VicHealth ran a 10,000 Steps Walking Challenge during the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, the largest of its kind to take place in Victoria. More than 1600 clubs participated in the Australian Drug Foundation’s Good Sports program, an initiative supported by VicHealth designed to change the booze culture that exists in many sporting clubs. VicHealth established a partnership with the AFL to advance violence prevention activity through sport.
In 2007, VicHealth supported a State Government ban on the sale of alcopop tubes and created the Victorian Health Inequalities Network to encourage public dialogue about the development of coherent strategies to reduce inequalities.
In 2008, VicHealth hosted the 2008 World Conference on the Promotion of Mental Health in Melbourne. The Streets Ahead program began; supporting and motivating people, especially children, to get active in their neighbourhoods.
In 2009, VicHealth invested in the creation of VictoriaWalks, which lead the move to create walking-friendly neighbourhoods. VicHealth announced an extra investment of $1.5 million to further reduce tobacco-related harms in Victoria, bringing the total VicHealth investment in tobacco control to $19 million over the next four years.
In 2011, the ‘See Beyond Race’, campaign launched; aimed at increasing awareness and acceptance of culture diversity in Greater Shepparton. VicHealth funded 30 State Sporting Associations over a number of years to increase sport participation by making clubs more welcoming places for all members of the community. The MOTION program launched, aimed at improving people’s health by giving them opportunities to get creative, active and involved in their local community through the arts.
In 2012, VicHealth launched the Creating Healthy Workplaces program; which combines international evidence with pilot projects to identify best practices for addressing stress, gender equity, alcohol-related harm, race-based discrimination and prolonged sitting at work. VicHealth bolstered its investment for a second round of ‘Arts About Us’ performances and art installations until June 2015 to inspire communities to embrace cultural diversity.
In 2013, VicHealth welcomed the full implementation of plain packaging of tobacco with enlarged graphic health warnings, a significant achievement to further drive down the smoking rates. VicHealth launched Name That Point and the TeamUp campaigns as well as releasing a suite of products and resources from the VicHealth Indicators Survey. With support from The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, VicHealth launched the Seed Challenge, bringing together individuals and groups to develop innovative, contemporary solutions to get more Victorians eating healthy food. VicHealth opened a second round of MOTION funding and continued to fund 30 State Sporting Associations to create safe, accessible, inclusive and equitable sporting environments to increase participation.
In 2014, VicHealth supported a huge public dance event, I Could Have Danced All Night, as part of White Night; a celebration of Melbourne's music, art, theatre, sport, fashion, film, design and performance. VicHealth also supported over 200,000 members in 742 sports and active recreation clubs across Victoria as part of VicHealth's Active Club Grants.
VicHealth's Action Agenda for Health Promotion 2013–2023 focuses on the following five strategic imperatives:
- promoting healthy eating
- encouraging regular physical activity
- preventing tobacco use
- preventing harm from alcohol
- improving mental wellbeing
These priorities are consistent with VicHealth’s obligations under the Tobacco Act of 1987. They also align with State Government policy and program directions, and national and international health promotion priorities and policies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) charters and declarations for Health Promotion.
VicHealth has a Board of Governance that is responsible to the Victorian Minister for Health. The current CEO is Jerril Rechter. Her predecessors were Todd Harper, now CEO of the Cancer Council Victoria; Rob Moodie, Professor of Global Health at the Nossal Institute of Global Health; University of Melbourne, and Rhonda Galbally, currently CEO of Australian community sector resource directory Our Community. Sir Gustav Nossal led VicHealth’s first Board, followed by Professor John Funder. VicHealth’s current Chair is Mark Birrell.