In Defence Of Healthway

In Defence Of Healthway

A/Prof Rosanna Capolingua
Former Chair of Healthway (2009 - 2015)

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The recent events concerning the so-called “ticket scandal” has featured a regrettable deluge of bad press reflecting adversely not only on individuals associated with Healthway (particularly myself, as its Chair) but also upon the Foundation itself.
As an individual adversely affected by this press, I have my own remedies (which I intend to vigorously pursue) under the Defamation Act 2005 against media reports that have inaccurately and unfairly defamed my reputation.


But what of Healthway? This is a vital question and I urge you to express your support for the Foundation whose role in Western Australian society is vital. Healthway was established under the Tobacco Control Act 1991 (now the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006) as a Foundation independent of Government.


The Act enshrines its functions in section 64: (a) to fund activities related to the promotion of good health in general with particular emphasis on young people; (b) to support sporting and arts activities which encourage healthy lifestyles and advance health promotion programs; (c) to provide grants to organisations engaged in health promotion programs; (d) to fund research relevant to health promotion.


Healthway sponsorship messages “Smarter than Smoking”, “Make Smoking History” and “SunSmart” are well known in our community. Healthway is now critically poised, implementing its five-year strategic plan with a focus on the contemporary public health challenges of alcohol and obesity.


“Alcohol. Think Again” and “Live Lighter” are now well-known messages. This strategic direction implemented by the Board sought greater accountability in health value return for taxpayer dollars. The obvious impacts within our community of the obesity epidemic and excessive alcohol consumption (particularly in young people) have led to our focus on alcohol and junk food promotion in sport and the arts.


This direction is founded on clear evidence that marketing and promotion of these products (just as it had been with smoking) using sport and the arts have a significant positive effect on market, sales, consumption, culture and behaviour. Research in the WA community clearly showed that Western Australians (particularly families) are worried about the influence of these industries on sports. Too often young people are influenced by the conduct (and misconduct) of role models in all of the sporting codes.
No campaign succeeds instantly. The culture of obsession with alcohol is one that has to some degree become entrenched with sport and celebration.


The focus of Healthway is to encourage sporting bodies to move away from the lucrative relationship they would otherwise enjoy with alcohol and junk food sponsors.
Let’s take Healthway’s successful partnership with the WACA. In 2012 there were direct approaches from the Premier to the Health Minister to ask what Healthway was doing when it fell out of a sponsorship relationship with the WACA for 12 months. This occurred when the WACA was not able to meet the Healthway criteria concerning alcohol advertising and promotion through cricket.


In 2013, Healthway entered into its now brilliant partnership with the WACA, promoting “Alcohol. Think Again”. You may recall the days when the WACA had to erect “nets” to contain drunken behaviour on the ground. Those days are over and the WACA has welcomed the return of families.


Congratulations to the WACA and all other sports that have stepped up and shouldered the responsibility of changing community attitudes. This includes the Perth Wildcats, Perth Glory, Perth Heat, Netball WA, Hockey WA, Surfing WA and more. Healthway’s new partnership with Rugby WA sees the Western Force and Rugby Union move away from previous sponsors towards a health-oriented sponsorship.


Healthway has also achieved the fantastic result of being listed for its health promotion research project grants on the Australian Competitive Grants Register (ACGR). This is run by the Federal Department of Education and as a result of the Healthway listing, universities in WA that are awarded Healthway health promotion research grants are eligible to receive infrastructure income for these grants from the Australian Government Research Block Grant Scheme and the WA Medical Research Infrastructure Fund.


Healthway is an essential Foundation that contributes enormously to the health of our State. The challenges to health – and in particular the health of our children – remain ever present. This Foundation must be preserved – its independence cherished, its values acknowledged and its achievements recognised. The issues that confronted Healthway over the “ticket scandal” are matters which have been already resolved.


I was confident at the time of my resignation as Chair that the circumstances responsible for this, the way in which Board oversight was deliberately evaded and governance policies insisted on by the Board not implemented – have been addressed by Healthway and it continues to fulfill its statutory function and purpose.


I urge you to stand up for Healthway – it must remain independent, funded and continue to function for the good of the State.

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