The Healthy Town Challenge, which aims to help people in rural communities become healthier, has wrapped up this month after first beginning in February this year.
The Challenge is a joint initiative of the NSW Office of Preventive Health and the Heart Foundation NSW. It supports regional and rural communities to facilitate healthy living activities to improve the health of their community members.
This year’s Healthy Town Challenge is the sixth challenge held in NSW, and the first that the Snowy Valleys Council has taken part in.
“It came about because NSW Health put out these Healthy Town Challenge grants every year of $15,000 and I approached the council with this offer thinking about a collaboration project that we could hold between Health and council, and the idea went from there,” Alexandra Walker, Health Promotion Coordinator with the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD), said.
The Challenge was originally planned to wrap-up in September, but the pandemic forced a change of plans, extending it to December.
The theme for this year’s challenge was ‘Move and Grow’, with a focus on facilitating physical activity and growing vegetables.
“The ‘Move’ side of things was basically a celebration of the community, the gentle exercise and Tai Chi classes already happening in the Snowy Valleys very much led by Jan Locke as one of the very important leaders,” Ms Walker said.
“We basically invited the whole community to attend these wonderful classes, and then Covid hit.”
To get around the challenges of lockdown, the council and MLHD decided to instead produce instructional Smooth Movers videos in conjunction with Seniors Week that people could watch and follow from home.
“[It] gave advice and inspiration to jump to action for seniors and to do physical activity in your home,” Ms Walker said.
“The connection between women especially is still there, and the classes are going to recommence next year.”
In October, the ‘Grow’ project was launched. This saw two wicking beds built – one in Tumut’s Richmond park and one at the Tumbarumba Creekscape – and an instructional video was produced to document the process, encouraging people to make their own version at home.
“The wicking beds were going to be a public open class for community members to come and have a go and see how it goes, so because we couldn’t do that we made a video,” Ms Walker said.
There was also an opportunity for members of the community to win free soil to kick-start their home garden projects.
“We are hoping to gather stories from community members about how they went and we realise that these stories will come later, it’s time that gardens need,” Ms Walker said.
Last year the MLHD helped facilitate the Healthy Town Challenge in Culcairn, who won first in the state.
They took home $15,000 to invest in a range of initiatives to encourage the community to be more active and foster healthier food choices, including the installation of an all-weather table tennis table, introducing a pre-school walking and lunch box challenge, and dog stations and seats along walking tracks.
The winner of this year’s challenge is expected to be announced in the new year.