THE Latrobe Health Advocate will conclude after six years of community engagement.

Minister for Health, Mary-Anne Thomas made the announcement on Friday, thanking the Latrobe Health Advocate Jane Anderson and her team for their dedication to improving health outcomes in the region.

“Jane Anderson has been a fearless advocate for the Latrobe Valley – I want to thank her for her dedication to championing the health and wellbeing needs of locals as we work to ensure the legacy of her work continues,” she said.

“During the pandemic we established local public health units, including one for the Gippsland region – the units are now permanent, helping us deliver the best health outcomes for communities across Victoria.”

The Advocate was established in 2018, following the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry to provide a trusted and independent voice for locals.

Ms Anderson’s important work has involved more than 400 community conversations with 924 locals, participation in more than 1500 events and regularly communicating with around 1000 stakeholders about community concerns.

From working with the local community, experts, researchers, and policy makers, Ms Anderson has helped improve access to general practitioner and palliative care services, developed more accessible transport, improved community engagement in projects for the transitioning energy economy, improved mental health and addressed social isolation.

A localised focus to health will remain with the Department of Health supporting the Latrobe Advocate to transfer key functions to the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit (GRPHU) – allowing this important work to continue and better integrate with the wider public health network.

Formed in 2020 to support the localised management of COVID-19, local public health units now have a much broader remit – working with the Department of Health to keep their communities healthy as part of a decentralised model that reflects changes in the delivery of healthcare across Victoria.

Public health units use local knowledge, community-based relationships, and direct engagement to effectively tailor and deliver public health initiatives and respond to incidents and issues.

The GRPHU also deliver programs for chronic disease prevention and health promotion activities via partnerships with local organisations in community health, women’s health, local government and Primary Health Networks.

The GRPHU will now work alongside the Gippsland Primary Health Network, Latrobe Valley Authority and Latrobe Health Assembly to deliver community engagement and communication for the Latrobe Valley.

Ms Anderson said while the Advocate would be no more, there would still be a role for her.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to the changes that have been occurring in the Latrobe Valley,” she said.

“The community voice is far more influential than in the past, service providers are working closer together, and services are being designed in response to people’s experiences. There is still more to be done and I will work with the Public Health Unit and others to ensure community engagement and systems change remains a priority.”