A Tamworth based collaborative, including Tamworth Regional Council, the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (the PHN), the University of Newcastle (UON), Rural Fit, Barton Lane, Northern Inland Academy of Sport, Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Centre (TAMS) and local educators have joined forces to reduce the growing incidence of cardiovascular disease across the Tamworth Local Government Area (LGA).
In February, three dietetic students from UON will begin phase one of a two phase project that aims to review the food options on sale at council-run sporting facilities and provide a report to improve the nutritional quality of the foods available. The project’s second phase will see the report recommendations implemented by a following group of students.
Richard Nankervis, Chief Executive Officer at the PHN, said the project was hoping to reverse some of the troubling statistics coming from the New England Region in relation to heart health. “Tamworth LGA has one of the highest rates of cardiovascular disease deaths in Australia. The region also has a higher than the national average in relation to hospital admissions for heart attacks and the mortality rate of coronary heart disease.
“The PHN applauds Tamworth Regional Council for collaborating with us and the UON to address and hopefully reverse the current local trends in cardiovascular disease.”
Working with the University of Newcastle’s Dr Tracy Schumacher, the dietetic students will work on a project developed by the Tamworth Cardiovascular Working Group. The project aims to;
- Investigate the feasibility of providing a higher proportion of healthy food choices in TRC sporting facilities through the development of a 12-month pilot program, and,
- Develop retail food access mapping to show the trends in the Tamworth LGA food retail environment over time, which can be used as a basis for policy change and development.
The first facilities to benefit from the project will be the Swimming Pools and Sports Dome.
Edwina Sharrock, Founder and Director of Birth Beat and a PHN Board Director, would like to encourage community participation. "We would be thrilled if the community can take a few minutes of their day to answer the survey if approached. This is such an important area of health and the more the community is involved, the better the outcomes will be."
Formed by the PHN in 2018 the Cardiovascular Disease Working Group has delivered on many initiatives over the past five years, including Education and Training for Health and Medical Professionals, hosting the inaugural 2000 Hearts Symposium in 2019, implementing the Heart Health Ambassador Program, community facing campaigns during Heart Week and conducting a Women in Heart Disease community forum.
Tamworth Regional Council is also no stranger to innovative approaches to improving health outcomes for its residents. In 2015, Tamworth, the second most prevalent city for smoking in the state, memorably introduced a Smoke-Free Environment Policy so that community members of the Tamworth region could enjoy outdoor public spaces without exposure to smoke from cigarettes. In 2020 the Council voted to extend the smoking-free zones throughout the CBD.
Andrew Mahony from Rural Fit and a member of the Cardiovascular Disease Working Group assures the community that they won’t be disappointed with the food options. “Community members may be thinking that the project will remove all of the hot chips and pies but this isn’t the case. Our intention is to provide healthier options, reduction in salt and sensible portion sizes, similar to the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy.
“Our hope is that the project will be successful enough throughout Tamworth, to inspire other councils to implement the program across their local government areas.”
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