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Feb 21 2018

Village Café Wins Zest Award

Most of us know the old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ but the reality is that it takes a village to live well and grow old too. The village, or community, that each of us is a part of, can have an important impact on our overall state of health and wellbeing.

Recognising this, as part of the Penrith Health Action Plan - a joint initiative between Penrith City Council and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District; Nepean Blue Mountains PHN and key community partners, - we introduced a 'Village Café' in North St Marys last year. We are delighted to announce that the Village Café was recognised on Friday at the 2018 ZEST Awards, which celebrates exceptional people and projects that make a difference in the community of Western Sydney.

The Café won the Award for ‘Exceptional Partnership in a Local Government Area’ which is fitting, as this project has been a true collaboration from its inception in early 2017.  In addition to the Penrith City Council, the Local Health District and our PHN, several other community organisations are also involved in the project including Community Junction, WestCare, Uniting Care and Uniting Ability Links.

The Village Café is a fortnightly pop-up cafe in North St Marys, one of our regions most disadvantaged areas. The Café offers older residents the opportunity to improve their social connections within their neighbourhood and to engage with services that support for their health and wellbeing in a relaxed, informal setting over a free cup of tea or coffee. 

This project was initiated in response to an identified need in North St Marys, where older people were presenting at hospital with preventable health issues and had particularly low rates of health screening. While at the Café, residents can engage in activities that encourage social connection, receive advice from health professionals on exercise, nutrition, mental and emotional wellbeing and health screening, and receive free services such as vaccinations and blood sugar testing. All participants also receive free fruit and vegetable packs provided by WestCare.

The initiatives uniqueness is further highlighted through the intentional conversations and relationships developed with the people who visit the Café on a fortnightly basis and the input that these participants have in the focus and topics of the Cafe, ensuring it is community led. Participants have reported feeling less isolated, with the social interaction helping to improve their connection to their local community.  Participants have also increased their physical activity levels, and have been assisted with individualised issues relating to their health and wellbeing. Take a look at what some of the participants had to say about the project in a recent video created by Penrith City Council. This initiative has proved to be so successful that we are seeking ways to duplicate the model in other areas.

The project is currently funded through NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) Liveable Communities Grants Program, for projects that improve the lives of older people living in NSW. As funding ceases in March 2018, the collaborative is currently working towards finding a sustainable funding solution to ensure the Café, and its important work, can continue in the future.

This is just one example of the innovative, community-based and collaborative projects that we are proud to be involved in, and that help to improve the health of our region. I look forward to sharing more with you as the year progresses.

Related information and resources:

Village Café video

Penrith Health Action Plan

NBMPHN Community Services & Programs for Older Persons

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Photo of Lizz Reay

Lizz Reay is the CEO of Wentworth Healthcare, provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network. Previously Deputy CEO of Nepean Blue Mountains Medicare Local & Nepean Division of General Practice, she has an extensive background in public health.

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