Healthy together geelong


City of Greater Geelong

Complex Adaptive Systems

Whole system approach to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity

Key points:
To meet the challenge of rising rates of overweight and obesity, Healthy Together Geelong took a complex systems approach to prevention. This work was carried out with other local governments and was conceived by the Victorian State Government Department of Health and Human Services.

Settings for action:

  • Whole of community
  • Local government
  • Workplaces
  • Over 95% of Early Learning Centres
  • Over 95% of Kindergartens
  • Over 80% of Primary Schools
  • Over 70% of Secondary Schools


  • More than one in four people living in Geelong were in regular contact with Healthy Together Geelong
  • Over 33,000 students
  • Over 34,000 employees


Visit the Healthy Together Geelong YouTube Channel

The initiative was funded by the State Government of Victoria and located at the City of Greater Geelong

Healthy Together Geelong operated at scale, and at multiple levels of the system, to impact on population health outcomes. Here are a limited number of Healthy Together Geelong activities and achievements:

  • Delivered strategies at a scale that impacted the health and wellbeing of large number of the population.
  • Working directly with 80 early childhood services, 54 primary schools, 18 secondary schools and 92 medium and large businesses as part of the Healthy Together Achievement Program. Program reach of over 69,600 people in Geelong.
  • Developed a local health service provider website for workplaces and schools to help them reach the goal of a becoming a health promoting school/workplace. 
  • Development of the Healthy Workplace Network for workplaces within the region, due to an identified gap in support in the region.
  • Supported thirty schools in the region to have the Healthy Eating Advisory Service conduct canteen menu assessments based on DET’s School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy and run professional development to create healthier menus and promote healthy eating in schools.
  • Supported Home Economics Victoria align the Achievement Program with the AusVELS and the VCAA by delivering Healthy Eating and Food Literacy in Secondary Schools. These professional development events were run for over 15 secondary schools to improve food literacy and healthy eating in schools as well as to connect them with their local community and food system.
  • Huge increase in active travel at Geelong schools from 4,326km in 2012 to 78,000km in 2015 through HTG leading implementation of state-wide initiatives including Walk to School and Premiers Active April events. From 2012 to 2015 there was an increase of 3 to 28 schools & 119 to 7,475 students participating in the Walk to School month-long event.
  • Development of Active Travel Routes for 11 schools, in partnership with the engineering department at City of Greater Geelong
  • Partnering with Geelong Cats and QUIT which lead to the development and launch of the “Cats Don’t Smoke” app reaching 35,000 attendees at 6 football games. This partnership included Joel Selwood as our Health Champion with messages of healthy eating and physical activity. The app was shortlisted as a finalist in the VicHealth 2014 awards.
  • Run and supported numerous social marketing campaigns for example Geelong Cats and HTG developed the Healthy Cats recipe book. Each football player has provided their favourite healthy meal, which was assessed by Nutrition Australia including only items from the 'green' and 'amber' category of the Healthy Choice guidelines. Each school in the Barwon South West region has be given a class set of books to support healthy eating.
  • A partner to Jamie’s Ministry of Food Geelong kitchen delivering a 10 week course to 3,836 participants as at December 2014.
  • Ran and commissioned numerous programs which resulted in changed behaviours and actions i.e., Infant with over 200 0-2 year olds and their parents, Geelong Active City in which over 90% of participants achieved their health goal and many moved from insufficiently active to sufficiently active according to the Australian physical activity guidelines.
  • Supporting Council Leisure Services to adopt the Healthy Choices Guidelines as part of the review of food service at Lara Pool, Splashdown, Leisuretime Centre and The Arena. Changes to the menu at the Lara Pool canteen resulted in an overall reduction in total fat, a 70% reduction in saturated fat and 40% reduction in kilo joule content of all the food and drinks sold in the 2013-2014 season versus the previous season.
  • Increased the number of “breastfeeding-friendly” venues across Geelong, from 30 to 71 venues. Development and promotion of a pocket resource with all breastfeeding friendly venues, disseminated through Greater Geelong Maternal Child Health Centre.
  • Community screening and Q&A session of That Sugar Film to 325 people. Panel for the Q&A includes: Damon Gameau, Star and Director of That Sugar Film; Jane Martin, Executive Manager, Obesity Policy Coalition; Tim Denton, and Chair of Barwon Medicare Local and GP.
  • Development and adoption by council of the Greater Geelong Physical Activity Strategy 2014-2017. This led to development and pending adoption of a G21 wide Regional Physical Activity Strategy.
  • Council partnered with Geelong Chamber of Commerce to help deliver the BeyondBlue Breakfast: A Workplace Mental Health Event. The event was attended by the full board of BeyondBlue in attendance, including Jeff Kennett and Julia Gillard. 300 people in attendance. A follow up event with Jeff was also held with 230 people in attendance, case studies presentations from the Achievement Program workplaces formed part of the second breakfast.

In what may be a genuine first the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults across Geelong reduced by 6.9% between 2011 and 2014 [1], this was when Healthy Together Geelong was running full steam. These efforts continue thanks to City of Greater Geelong, Barwon Health and Bellarine Community Health, and participating businesses, schools, kindergartens and early learning centres.

It was an honour and a pleasure to work with and lead such a fantastic team of capable, dedicated staff who delivered above expectations in the face of severe adversity and contributed significantly to changing what some hailed as an irreversible trajectory of Australia’s biggest killer obesity. To them I and the people of Geelong should be forever grateful. Long may they continue to prosper.