Budget unfolds unhealthy decision for Healthy Lifestyle Program
A highly respected member of the Charters Towers community will lose her job following confirmation funding for the position of Community Education Officer within the very successful Healthy Lifestyle Program will cease at the end of this month.
This move has been on the cards for almost 2 months, with the loss of Anthea Skinner’s position confirmed in a letter confirming the funding cut from Minister for Health, Lawrence Springborg.
The Healthy Lifestyle Program has run with three members:
Community Education Officer – Anthea Skinner
Community Nutritionist – Louise Benoit
Advanced Health Worker – Vassa Hunter
The Program has launched many successful initiatives that have demonstrably benefited the health of many people within the region.
It has been a privilege being part of such a motivated, dedicated team working with the Charters Towers, Hughenden, Richmond, Greenvale and Ravenswood communities for almost 4 years has been an absolute privilege, said the Community Education Officer, Anthea Skinner.
It has been a time of genuine sharing, not only within the team, but with all the community members, partners and networks across the region and beyond.
These programs include 10 000 Steps, Lighten Up, Sizzling Sistas, Tai Chi for Health, Tag Along, Towers Tucker Box, and have seen Anthea and her team create many strong connections with a great many other organisations, such as constructing the raised vegetable gardens with the Crop Circle in Centenary Park (pictured, above). The value of their work is just becoming obvious, with researchers from James Cook University and the University of Adelaide currently investigating the economic and other benefits that our community is gaining from the emphasis on preventative health.
Primary Prevention is the first level of health care designed to prevent the occurrence of disease and promote health. Our team has been funded by Queensland Health for the past 3.5 years to increase access, availability and affordability to health services to reduce the burden on the hospital system which helps Governments save money in the long term. Through a partnership and research projects with the School of Medicine and Dentistry at James Cook University, we have the substantial evidence to show that we have produced a number of positive outcomes, said Anthea.
The minister’s letter has confirmed that funding for the remaining two team members was also currently being reviewed, with a final decision due at the end of September.
Mr Luxton said this is a particularly disappointing outcome as it has the potential to deprive the community of a very effective and well-received primary health promotion and chronic disease prevention programme, which has benefited the community of Charters Towers and seen services delivered to the local government areas of Flinders and Richmond, an area the size of the State of Victoria; this has been achieved with a dedicated team of three people employed and supported by the combined resources of CTNC.
“The best case scenario will see this highly effective team reduced to two, who will be faced with trying to provide a continuing service to the same area,” Mr Luxton said.
“The loss of the team leader is a very significant blow to the community, the Healthy Lifestyle Team and CTNC, and the absence of Anthea Skinner’s enthusiasm, commitment, competence and cheery approach to her role will be keenly felt by all.”
Mr Luxton is deeply concerned that the worst-case scenario – total defunding of the programme – will be Minister Springborg’s decision.
“Such a scenario will see the communities in this huge area of Queensland, much of it rural and remote, totally denied access to the services delivered by the team, which are currently not being delivered by any other provider,” he said.
“There was no service of this nature provided in the region prior to the development of the Healthy Lifestyle Programme and there’s no known plans to provide these services in the future.
“Should this eventuate this is a totally unacceptable outcome for this community.”
Mr Luxton said that he would be writing to the Health Minister again to reinforce the effectiveness and importance of the programme and seeking clarification of the Newman Government’s policy position on the delivery of Primary Health Prevention Programmes, particularly in rural and remote areas, in the future.
“These programmes have the potential to deliver enormous benefits in terms of community well-being, not to mention very significant cost savings in the long term through chronic disease prevention and reduced demand on responsive medical services. It can truly be portrayed as a case of short term gain leading to long term pain,” he said.
The CTNC president said that, in line with its charter, CTNC has an important advocacy role on behalf of the community and the organisation is committed to being part of the future.
“For this to happen there must be a future, so the message for government is that we will not be going away on this issue and will continue to advocate strongly in line with the organisation’s charter. We look forward to partnering with the government in delivering this important service into the future,” he said.
Mr Luxton said that on behalf of the Healthy Lifestyle Team and CTNC he wished to sincerely thank the community and kindred organisations for their strong and continuing efforts in support of this very important programme.