A North East alliance now celebrating its 20th anniversary improves community health and well being by acting as the metaphoric fence at the top of a cliff, not the ambulance below.
Central Hume Primary Care Partnership collaborates with 17 member organisations across Wangaratta, Benalla, Alpine and Mansfield council areas to make best use of their shared knowledge and experience.
"Our role is to work behind the scenes so that's typically why a lot of people haven't heard of us," executive officer Huw Brokensha said.
"We work in with those organisations that really do deliver at the front end for community - the health services, the councils, the community service organisations."
One of 28 Victorian primary care partnerships established two decades ago, Central Hume PCP focuses on health promotion and prevention, identifying community needs and working to lessen the demand on acute emergency services.
"As a team we don't add resources but we try and reduce the impact to resources," Mr Brokensha said.
"So if different organisations are working on similar things, we try and bring them together to collaborate on how they might be able to do that together and therefore they're not working as a silo, they're working collaboratively across the catchment."
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Partnership projects have included developing health services at Benalla's Waminda Community House and training clinicians in a self-management approach for chronic and long-term health conditions.
The Alpine Active Living Mapping Project began two years ago by assessing whether Alpine residents were getting enough exercise as well as any barriers and opportunities.
Participant Jo Long said the survey acted as "a bit of a wake-up call".
"Answering the questions made me realise I was doing absolutely nothing," she said.
"It was definitely the starting point that led me to thinking, 'this is a bit ridiculous'."
Mr Brokensha said after the community consultation, the Alpine Active Group was established and an action plan developed.
"The strength of what our partners do and what we try and support is to be led by what the community's asking for," he said.
"Go out to the community and find out the ways they're looking to become active, in this particular case."
The project identified lack of time and weather as people's key barriers to physical activity, with walking, cycling, free events and family events among the top solutions.
Health promotion officer Maureen Ryland, of Alpine Health, said support from others also came through as a strong motivator, with the health service implementing a healthy workplaces achievement program.
"One example is the lunchtime Bright walking group," she said.
"Staff have told us they are more likely to do it because other staff are participating."
Mr Brokensha said the Alpine model had also been picked up by organisations in Wangaratta and, in the future, Mansfield when COVID-19 restrictions allowed.
"We see that as a real success, when you're able to trial something in a jurisdiction, find a model that works and then being able to share that to another jurisdiction," he said.
"It means that you're working together and working smarter."
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