Co-op secures Healthy Towns Challenge funds

The roll out of free health checks organised by Barossa Co-op for its members earlier this year has resulted in significant funds to continue their unique program.

The pilot initiative, supported by University SA's health students, was on Wednesday morning awarded $44,000 under state government's new Healthy Towns Challenge.

Health Minister Stephen Wade was on site to congratulate the Co-op board-led initiative. 

Mr Wade shared how Co-op was one of six successful state-wide applicants, plucked from a pool of 42 initiatives, to receive funding to develop and implement programs for the benefit of their entire community’s health and wellbeing.

Barossa Co-op chief executive officer Neil Retallick, who joined the retail co-operative in Nuriootpa officially in March, shared his excitement with the outcome.

“This grant opportunity is fantastic for the Co-op and supports our economic drive of supplying fresh foods, cultural stance with regards to sponsorship…with this third new element – helping the community make better decisions,” he said.

The free health checks were instigated this year due to the board highlighting the prevalence of cardiovascular disease being disproportionately high in rural Australia.

Barossa currently sits within high risk zone on the Heart Foundation Map.

Co-op board director and University SA associate professor Associate Professor in Health Marketing Svetlana Bogomolova said this glaring fact determined a strong need for the project to become reality, for the region to become more healthy.

She with Mr Retallick and board chair Rebecca Tolhurst on Tuesday explained how members in June were provided free checks at the shopping precinct mall, which included testing members’ blood and sugar levels, with questions focused on family history. 

“It was a chance to educate and motivate the community,” Rebecca Tolhurst said.

The checks also revealed members’ health age which is different to actual age.

Results gave members a chance to make changes to their lifestyles, continue with their good work or be referred to a health professional.

The grant now means the Co-op's project team, made up of retail staff who fully support the initiative, will work towards a plan which includes:

  • Further assessing community awareness of cardiovascular risk factors
  • Raising community awareness of healthy lifestyle choices
  • Free health assessments and individual advice
  • Evaluation of reach and impact which includes an online survey

Mr Wade said with an 18,000-plus members who live in the Barossa region, and an extended reach of up to 28,000 due member's families, it was a great fit for the Healthy Towns Challenge.

“Maintaining an active lifestyle and eating well helps prevent chronic disease – it is great to see the ideas that these organisations came up with,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Wade told Barossa Herald the $100,000 committed for a case study to explore a Barossa Hospital continues remains in place.