If you don’t know the answer to the question above, re what does your local council do for your health, it’s not surprising really.
Our public discussions about health tend to focus on the role of territory, state or federal governments. And local government is, in general, notoriously under-scrutinised.
Yet local governments can have such a big impact upon their community’s health, not only through the provision of health and community services, but through the many decisions they make that have a bearing on health.
On that note, here are some snippets that may be of interest.
Bringing dental care to the outback
During a chat today with Professor Ward Massey, Professor of Dentistry and Oral Health at Griffith University*, I learnt about an innovative project that has been delivering dental care to the people of Brewarrina and surrounds in outback NSW. Dental services are, as we know, rarer than hen’s teeth in rural and remote areas, and Indigenous communities. That old inverse care law in action, yet again.
As a result of a partnership between the Brewarrina Shire Council, the Greater Western Area Health Service, Griffith University and the medical service Ochre Health, locals now have access to dental care for around 30 weeks of the year. The services are provided by visiting Griffith students and staff, with the receptionist and a dental assistant coming from the local community. The partners provide various kinds of support, including cultural awareness training.
A few months ago, the Brewarrina Shire Rural and Remote Dental Project won the National Local Government Award for Excellence which recognises “a Council that is delivering services and developing local solutions to complex and challenging problems”.
On a related theme, a Croakey reader suggested drawing your attention to laws that now require Victorian councils to prepare a municipal public health plan.
Apparently, the plans for Yarra and Darebin – both in Melbourne – are some of the better ones, and worth a read.
According to the Darebin plan, the council has identified three priority areas to provide the framework for its Community Health and Wellbeing Plan 2009-2013:-
PRIORITY ONE: Promoting mental health and social wellbeing – through addressing social inclusion, prevention of violence in families and against women and children, alcohol and drug use and mental health issues
PRIORITY TWO: Improving physical health – through addressing physical activity, access to healthy food and nutrition and health promotion
PRIORITY THREE: Creating safe, supportive and sustainable environments – through addressing access to health services, community safety, housing, transport, climate change and other environmental issues
The Yarra City Council plan has set four priorities to drive improvements in the health of the community over the next four years:
1. Healthier eating and a physically active community
2. Reducing the harm from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
3. Improving mental health
4. Improving the health of Indigenous Australians.
Perhaps local councils (or some of them at least) are leading the way in addressing the health issues that really matter to people? Just a thought…
How healthy is your postcode?
Meanwhile, the city of Boston in the US has just launched a ground-breaking campaign to help residents see the connection between their zip code and their health status.
Billboards in 15 Boston neighbourhoods feature each neighbourhood’s zip code and the web address, whatsyourhealthcode.com. When users visit the site, they can travel through a virtual world for a snapshot of the social and environmental factors impacting the health of residents in each Boston neighbourhood, and link to a resource page to find out how they can get involved in working to reduce health disparities.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino said: “This campaign will help Boston residents identify the contributing factors in their own communities and learn more about what they can do to improve their health and the health of their families and neighbours.”
The campaign, which also includes a TV commercial, was developed by the Center for Health Equity and Social Justice, a program of the Boston Public Health Commission, and BPHC’s Communications Office.
All of which makes Croakey think: if you see a good idea, steal it!
• For those interested in health and local government, this previous Croakey post on such matters drew an interesting comment on related work in western Sydney.
• Declaration: In the interests of open disclosure, I was interviewing Ward Massey for an article for Griffith University’s Red magazine.