Health initiative profile must be raised: report

Anne Simmons

The Latrobe Health Initiative’s low profile was a key area for improvement, an independent review by Deloitte has found, but the Latrobe Health Assembly has responded saying community awareness would grow over time.

While the interim report found the health initiatives had made “significant progress” during 2018, it said increased awareness and understanding of the initiatives was important for building trust and ownership in Latrobe Valley communities.

“Most community members have not heard of the initiatives and are unsure of their purpose. This means further work is required for community members to understand how the initiatives can influence health and wellbeing,” the report said.

The report was commissioned by the Health Department to provide a strategic review of the activities within the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone and offer advice for future directions.

The state government committed to make the Latrobe Valley a health innovation zone in 2016 following recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.

Latrobe Health Assembly is a group of mainly community members which oversees the zone’s development and work to improve health and wellbeing in the Latrobe Valley.

Assembly chairperson Professor John Catford welcomed the report but said it would take a while to build momentum “from a standing start”.

“It’s … like a snowball beginning to roll now,” Professor Catford said.

“To be fair … we’ve been a little shy in blowing the trumpets until we’re happy the systems are in place, programs are happening and funding is being utilised.”

A good example of the assembly’s work taking effect was last week’s announcement of a youth residential rehabilitation facility in the Latrobe Valley, according to Professor Catford.

“The assembly was advocating back in April for greater investment in alcohol and other drug treatment services and I wrote on behalf of the assembly to the Premier [Daniel Andrews],” he said.

He said the assembly was supporting about 40 projects across the Latrobe Valley and was looking to support about 30 new local initiatives with a new $250,000 innovation grant scheme.

“Instead of experts coming up with solutions, actually the solutions are out there in the community. We just need to tap into them,” he said.

The report lists significant projects being delivered, including self-defence classes for young women and a dental voucher scheme. Latrobe Health Assembly launched last month an interactive website named My Tracks Latrobe where people find a map documenting local walking trails.

Those interested in applying for innovation grants can visit The final report will be presented in March 2020.