Healthy highways tackles health crisis

Article image - Healthy highways tackles health crisis The Coorong OPAL team sported fruit and vegetable costumes to introduce residents to the Coorong Healthy Highways program.

The Coorong District Council has taken an innovative and unique approach to tackling the national obesity crisis, with the launch of its new healthy meal program – Coorong Healthy Highways (CHH).

The program uses responsive mobile technology to link the general public to healthy food and drink outlets when they are travelling through the Coorong district.

The project was formed when local businesses partnered with the Coorong OPAL team to look at opportunities to improve their menus to support public health, and also to drive more visitors to their doors.

Already the CHH project has more than 25 local businesses accredited. These outlets are located along three major highways (Princes, Mallee and Dukes), all which pass through the Coorong district and connect South Australia to the eastern states, attracting thousands of vehicles each day.

The program has also garnered support from the Premier’s Healthy Kids Menu Taskforce and the Heart Foundation.

Coorong OPAL Manager Tanja Morgan has been the driving force behind the project, with an aim to make healthy food choices easier – not only for people travelling through the Coorong – but also for local families.

“What we have found after four years of working in the Coorong, is that local families are finding it more and more difficult to access healthy and nutritious foods when they’re on the go,” said Ms Morgan.

“In rural communities we spend a lot of time in the car travelling to school, sport, work, social events and everything in between.

“So we wanted to come up with a scheme that would provide a simple and modern way to hook families in to places they can access healthy food and drink on the go.

“The bonus of this program, is that we can also support local economic outcomes by helping to drive business to the doors of local food outlets, and also attract more travellers to stop, stay and play in the Coorong.”

The newly launched website (www.cooronghealthyighways.com.au) has a mapping device whereby people can find their closest healthy food outlet, search for particular items of choice, or be directed to local recreational parks and places.

“Understanding peoples’ needs and desires, we have also specifically mapped out where people can find fresh coffee and healthy kids options – understanding that a long journey in the car may require both of these,” said Ms Morgan.

A ‘soft’ launch of the CHH project was undertaken in October, when the website was launched and promoted online to the wider South Australian public. This launch alone has helped attract up to 1000 visitors to the website already.

The OPAL team launched the project to the local community at its Christmas pageants and fairs in Tailem Bend and Meningie during December.

The team dressed up as giant fruits and vegetables and ran activities for children while introducing parents to the website on mobile and tablet technology.