Warrnambool and Koroit’s Early Childhood Service, the Honey Pot, is setting a sweet example by becoming the first early childhood service in the Victorian Western District to achieve every health priority area of the Healthy Early Childhood Services Achievement Program.
The Healthy Early Childhood Services Achievement Program is a free Victorian Government health and wellbeing program delivered by Cancer Council Victoria. The program currently has more than 1,300 early childhood service members in Victoria, helping about 154,000 children build healthy habits.
Services that join the program are supported to achieve a series of milestones that address key health areas including physical activity, healthy eating, mental health and wellbeing, safe environments, sun protection, and tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Once these milestones are achieved, services receive Victorian Government recognition as a healthy service.
The Honey Pot has always been committed to promoting health and wellbeing – and in 2016 it joined the program. Honey Pot centre director, Rebecca Perry, believed the program would help the service take its health and wellbeing efforts to a new level.
“At the Honey Pot, we like to think we were already a health promoting service, but once we started looking at the Achievement Program, we realised there was so much more we could do to promote the overall health and wellbeing of our children, staff and service as a whole,” Ms Perry said.
To guide the Honey Port through the program, the health promotion team at South West Healthcare (SWH) provided dedicated support. SWH’s health promotion officer, Alexandra Bell, cites that the service’s dedication and enthusiasm have been key drivers in delivering positive health and wellbeing outcomes.
“It’s been impressive to see the wide range of initiatives implemented; some are just simple changes, but they’ve had a profound impact. One of note is how children’s birthdays are celebrated, children now choose a present from the Birthday Box instead of eating cake,” Ms Bell said.
To name a few key activities, children have been involved in growing fresh produce in their vegetable garden and assisting in preparing healthy foods. To keep active, children enjoy walking excursions to the local park, which promotes nature play and offers the opportunity to teach children about road safety. During outdoor activities, children practise sun smart behaviours such as applying sunscreen and wearing a hat. Furthermore, an appreciation for different cultures is embedded in the curriculum, with children regularly engaged in cultural activities including presentations as well as being part of the Narragunnawali program, with one new practice being an Acknowledgment of Country before lunch each day.
Healthy initiatives have also impacted the service’s policies and practices with significant changes made to the service menus, with support from the Healthy Eating Advisory Service. This has seen more fresh vegetables on afternoon platters and in lunches, and when menu planning, the amount of dairy, fruit and vegetables being served to the children is carefully considered. In addition, to improve staff and parents’ health awareness, information is regularly shared in flyers, brochures and newsletters. Moreover, staff are encouraged to role model healthy behaviours and are well-versed in the new health and wellbeing policies and practices.
Ms Perry states that being part of the Achievement Program is an enriching experience for the whole service community.
“Not only are we seeing changes within our program, policies and procedures but we are seeing positive changes in children and staff in terms of their attitude about the importance of a healthy lifestyle,” Ms Perry said.
Alexandra Wilson: firstname.lastname@example.org