When 36 people from the Benalla community booked in for a dental appointment in 2016 and none of them had ever had a dental health check before, all the organisations involved in the Waminda Community House initiative knew they were onto something.

Central Hume Primary Care Partnership Chair, Heather Betts said this is just one example of how Central Hume PCP has been improving the health and wellbeing of people in the Ovens Murray region for 20 years.

Central Hume PCP, which covers Alpine, Benalla, Mansfield and Wangaratta council areas, is one of 28 PCPs in Victoria, all celebrating 20 years in 2020.

“With the Coronavirus restrictions, we decided we’d mark the anniversary by focusing on some of our recent work and asking people in our communities to tell us how one of our programs helped them,” Ms Betts said.

With the Benalla example, Waminda Community House Co-ordinator, Janet Symes said since the first dental van visit, the growth in attendance and services offered has been incredible.

“We have seen so many changes for people’s health. A big part of that is the social benefits,” Ms Symes said.

“As a Primary Care Partnership, health and wellbeing benefits are what we work to provide and so, after 20 years, we think it’s time to celebrate them,” Ms Betts said.

Central Hume PCP Executive Officer, Huw Brokensha said the key to PCPs is that they work to enable collaboration on multiple complex health and wellbeing challenges facing the community.

“A big benefit of how the partnership approach works is that it empowers our communities to shape how we deliver on government policy, considering the reality of rural health and wellbeing services, public transport and other access limitations,” Mr Brokensha said.

“The value of locally developed solutions is demonstrated when the community continues with initiatives well after the initial phases have been rolled out; the dental van visits to Waminda Community House are a case in point. Since 2016, this has now turned into a fortnightly one-stop medical outreach.

“Further success is demonstrated when another community adapts the solution for their local needs. We have several examples of these through the years too.”

Mr Brokensha said the beauty of these examples is that they show how facilitating organisations to work better together, make the most of available resources and avoid duplication of effort, achieves health and wellbeing outcomes for local people and communities.

“It’s our strong community connections that make this all possible and builds evidence of what works in each community.

The partnership is made up of education, social services, community, aged care, local government, prevention and early intervention health organisations as well as acute hospitals.

“Our PCP has 17 member organisations. We are place-based, which means we work across organisations within a community, such as schools and neighbourhood houses, to give local people input into, and access to, the health and wellbeing services they need.

“Without the Central Hume PCP, many of these organisations would work in isolation, losing the benefits of extended networks and collaboration, reducing the impact of their resources and potentially duplicating services.

Mr Brokensha said the PCP works on a variety of health and wellbeing projects across the region.

“In Mansfield, with our partners there, we have supported a youth mental health project. It’s raised awareness of mental health across the community, training parents and staff at the Mansfield Secondary College.

Alyssa Lamont, who is in year 9 at Mansfield Secondary College said things have improved a lot in the last six months.

“The welfare team at the school understand mental health a lot more and the teachers who previously didn’t understand, or came across as not caring about it, have also changed,” Alyssa said.

Mr Brokensha said the PCP also organised training that was identified as beneficial for health care workers and their patients.

Meagan Tharratt, Care Coordinator in the Complex Care Service and Coordinator of the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Northeast Health Wangaratta said recent training in a new self-management philosophy resonated with staff and patients alike.

“It’s about empowering patients in their health care. The training influenced the way I approach my clients. As a clinician, I get a referral and have some detail about why they are being referred. Now I more fully appreciate that’s not how the patient might see it. I see the situation more from the client’s perspective now,” Meagan said.

Mr Brokensha said the Active Alpine Living Mapping project highlighted the PCP’s whole-of-community approach.

“We asked Alpine residents about their levels of physical activity and about barriers to doing more, to understand why less than 50% of the Alpine Shire’s adult population is undertaking sufficient physical activity, with 30% of the population being overweight and 18% obese.

“Then we formed the Alpine Active Group and developed recommendations which are being implemented in workplaces to support the efforts people are making in their own lives to improve the health.

Jo Long, who works for Alpine Health, said when she first filled out the survey it was a wake-up call for her.

“Answering the questions made me realise I was doing absolutely nothing! Now I see the physical and mental health benefits and I feel more capable generally since I increased my level of physical activity,” Ms Long said.

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