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Let’s Bring Healthy Back to Cowra

Project Added:
13 October 2015
Last updated:
21 April 2021

Let’s Bring Healthy Back to Cowra


The Cowra ‘Let’s Bring Healthy Back’ nine-week program used a multidisciplinary approach, using the expertise of a dietician, social worker, exercise physiologist, Aboriginal health worker and community nurse to help the Cowra community lose weight and improve their health and wellbeing.


To implement a nine-week healthy lifestyle program where 80% of participants make at least one sustainable lifestyle change after completing the program.


  • Improves community health and wellbeing.
  • Improves understanding and awareness of healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Engages the community and creates a supportive environment.
  • Improves the patient experience and closes the gap in existing services, including Aboriginal Health.
  • Enhances staff engagement and collaboration with General Practitioners (GPs), Medicare Local, community health and support groups.
  • Strengthens public policy and health services in the area.

Project status


  • Start: May 2014
  • Finish: March 2015


  • Sustained - The initiative has been implemented and is sustained in standard business.


A community forum in Cowra highlighted the need to support consumers who are obese and overweight. The Western NSW Medicare Local (WNSWML) and Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) strategic plans both recognise obesity as a key priority for communities in the region.

It is estimated that 79% of people living in the WNSWML area are obese or overweight, which has many health implications and contributes heavily to ballooning rates of chronic disease. It has also led to a higher than average death rate in Cowra, with cardiovascular disease the most common cause of death for residents of Cowra.

In 2011-12, an estimated 999,000 Australians were told by a doctor or nurse that they had diabetes at some point in their lives (based on self-reported data). Of these, around 119,000 people (11.9%) had Type 1 diabetes and 848,000 people (84.9%) had Type 2 diabetes. Between 2001 and 2004-05, the prevalence of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was more than three times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

A project team was formed, which explored the possible reasons people were not making sustainable, healthy lifestyle choices. Contributing factors were identified and prioritised through voting and pareto analysis.

Environmental scanning was conducted to identify the strengths and assets of the community and the characteristics of the target group, which may impact their ability to make healthy lifestyle choices. The following barriers were identified:

  • no integrated approach or healthcare pathway
  • the cost of accessing current facilities is prohibitive
  • there is a lack of knowledge and awareness of services available
  • residents may fear for their safety or have emotional barriers such as low self-esteem, feeling exposed, low confidence and no motivation
  • a lack of time and availability.

The project team decided to take a multidisciplinary approach and develop a program with a dietitian, exercise psychologist, social worker, Aboriginal health worker and community nurse. The program would address the physical and emotional needs of people wanting to lose weight. It would take an evidence-based, clinical approach with a focus on sustainable lifestyle changes rather than develop an intimidating gym environment.


  • Completed a needs analysis and defined the target group.
  • Completed a gap analysis of resources and equipment available.
  • Researched different approaches to healthy lifestyle programs and developed a nine-week program of activity.
  • Launched fundraising activity to pay for equipment and resources required.
  • Implemented a nine-week healthy lifestyle program, which included:
    • pre-assessment
    • eight-week education and training with a dietitian, exercise psychologist, social worker, Aboriginal health worker and community nurse
    • post-assessment
    • post-program survey.
  • Completed a project audit and assessed results against project goals.

Implementation site

  • Cowra Community Health, Western NSW Local Health District


  • Western NSW Medicare Local
  • Australian Lions Foundation
  • Heart Support Australia


  • 100% of participants made at least two healthy lifestyle changes and maintained these for more than three months.
  • The referral pathway has been tested and a second nine-week program is underway.
  • There are now plans to deliver a condensed version of the program each fortnight to groups of 12 people with disabilities and their support workers.
  • The program may be incorporated into the Aboriginal Knock Out Health Challenge moving forward.
  • The biggest challenge was to keep driving the project following staff changes, including a new manager at Cowra Community Health.
  • Partnerships take time to develop, particularly in rural areas where health professionals are already stretched trying to provide services to a large geographic area.
  • Barriers included a lack of administrative and marketing input to generate interest in clinical services, as well as the availability of clinicians to run the program.

Related projects


Liezel van Eeden
Acting Manager Primary Care Strategies
Cowra Community Health
Western NSW Local Health District
Phone: 0400 869 856

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