YCHANGe program creates healthy options

Staff at Rural Northwest Health have taken steps to a healthier lifestyle.
Staff at Rural Northwest Health have taken steps to a healthier lifestyle.

YARRIAMBIACK Shire is trying to curb obesity trends, with businesses making changes to their eating habits in the workforce.

Yarriambiack – Creating Healthy Active Nourished Generations, or YCHANGe, is a partnership between Rural Northwest Health, Deakin University, Dunmunkle Health Services, and Yarriambiack Shire Council. 

The group formed after research showed more than 70 per cent of Yarriambiack adults were overweight or obese, the worst statistics in Victoria.

Yarriambiack also had Victoria’s highest sugar-sweetened beverage consumption rate. University research fellow Jill Whelan said YCHANGe aimed to help health services reduce avoidable hospital admissions.

“These admissions come at a cost to this community, its health services, workforce and the future health of our children,” she said. “It will not go away without effort from the community.”

YCHANGe has worked with Rural Northwest Health to change what food was being offered at work.

Changes include removing biscuits from staff rooms, offering free fruit on Fridays and changing the YarriYak Cafe menu.

Rural Northwest Health chief executive Catherine Morley said the changes first started four years ago.

“What a difference we’ve made in four years – we used to have lollies and cakes all the time back then but it’s nothing like that now,” she said.

“We only have healthy lunch options and no contraband.

“We no longer have lollies on the tables at education sessions.

“We have fruit on Fridays and no are soft drinks available, just water, tea and coffee.”

Ms Morley said at the YarriYak Cafe, about 75 per cent of the food was green. “Sales have shown that team members are making the right decisions,” she said.

“We’ve made sustainable changes and it’s been a great outcome.”

Ms Morley said the health care group also had programs to support staff make healthy changes, such as losing weight, doing more exercise or quitting smoking.

“A significant number of people have made changes, which is great because it’s not easy.”

Ms Morley said cutting out junk food at work had benefited the organisation.

“People are saving money and it helps them maintain their health – it’s never great when people are unwell,” she said.

Ms Morley said she would encourage other workplaces to make the same changes.

“It’s something that has to be done slowly and over time,” she said.

“It’s also important that staff understand the changes, so education and communication is important.”