In public health there has been an increasing shift in opinion that strategies for improving quality of life and community well being need to be focused outside of the health arena. Local Government is ideally placed to make a difference in the lives of its communities.
Health promotion goes beyond healthy lifestyles to wellbeing and The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) defines it as the process of “…enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realise aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment”.
Health is a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living and is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Local Government is an important link in the chain of the social determinants of health and is in a position to make a significant impact on the well being of its communities.
In this case study the organisational and political support for this policy framework are high and this research demonstrates that involving staff and elected members in the policy development process, can have an immediate impact on participant’s perceptions of quality of life and community well being. This involvement has also given participants an opportunity to gain further insights and an improved understanding that community well being should not be driven by departments of health and that Local Government is in fact a key player in keeping people healthy.
The development of this policy has fostered strong relationships between senior staff and the elected body of this council and the developed framework has the potential to further influence both organisational culture and the decision-making process.
Ms Barbara Erichsdotter (SA)
Consultant, Health Research International
5th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference 2012
The Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre, Geelong, Victoria – 6th to the 8th of June – 2012