During Stage 2 of this project, I have been conducting focus groups and interviews with people from Southern Grampians and Glenelg Primary Care Partnership (SGGPCP), Wimmera Primary Care Partnership (WPCP) and Inner South East Partnership in Community and Health (ISEPICH).
In the interviews and focus groups we have discussed what they are doing in relation to promoting equity and environmental sustainability and what they see as the barriers and enablers for this kind of work.
For SGGPCP and WPCP, the interviews or focus groups were with PCP representatives and network members, whereas for ISEPICH they were with individual workers and community members who had participated in Stage 1 of this project.
Below are my overall impressions of what the three PCPs have been doing in regard to equity and environmental sustainability in 2009-12. This is a preliminary report and I am seeking feedback from the PCPs and individual participants on this and any other reports as the project progresses. I see it as part of an ongoing discussion, as this is an action research project.
During the 2009-12 period, all three PCPs had a focus on equity, and supported capacity building and projects promoting equity. This would be similar for most PCPs in Victoria, but these three possibly were relatively advanced in this work. The main focus of this overview therefore is on what they have done in regard to environmental sustainability.
I have also started looking at the links between equity and environmental sustainability in their work, and will discuss this more in future updates.
SGGPCP had done considerable work on capacity building in relation to environmental sustainability and climate change prior to 2009-12, particularly the production of the “blue book” (Climate Change Adaptation: a framework for local action). Although the title is about adaptation, this resource actually encompasses a health promotion approach to promoting environmental sustainability.
In 2009-12 SGGPCP moved into an implementation phase and conducted or supported projects addressing environmental sustainability, including ‘Pass the Parcel’.
WPCP and ISEPICH both did initial work on building capacity around environmental sustainability during 2009-12 but did not move into a full implementation phase. Some projects conducted by individual PCP member agencies and local community groups, however, had a focus on environmental sustainability. In some cases the primary focus was equity or social inclusion but there was also an environmental aspect. This seems to be particularly so with community gardening and community meals type projects.
I will be documenting examples of projects that addressed both equity and environmental sustainability over coming months on this blog and encourage research participants to send me information, particularly evaluation reports if available.
ISEPICH had specifically looked at the links and commonalities between equity and environmental sustainability as part of its capacity building process in 2011-12. However, because all three PCPS had a strong focus on equity, these links emerged in practice in all, even if they had not been explored in theory.
All three PCPs had also worked on climate change adaptation issues, particularly through Heatwave projects. In all cases this seems to have led to further work, particularly with Home and Community Care services, on community outreach to vulnerable groups. In ISEPICH and SGPCP, there was movement from adaptation towards mitigation in this work, for example through promoting or supporting insulation and energy efficiency measures for low income households.
In WPCP the focus seems to have remained somewhat more on climate change adaptation and emergency responses. This may in part reflect the nature and history of the area, as a predominantly rural area which was very much affected by the drought in 2001-2009, and by emergencies including heatwaves, fires and floods in 2009-11. All three PCPs were affected by these factors but I think it’s fair to say WPCP was the most affected. There may be other reasons and I’m interested to hear from WPCP people about this.
Enablers and barriers
Some of the barriers and enablers for work on environmental sustainability that are emerging (not in order of importance as I need to do a lot more analysis of this) are briefly summarized below.
Enablers include champions/enthusiasts, management and executive committee support, volunteers, government support/funding, Indigenous/multicultural sharing, and partnerships (including partnerships with people with expertise in environmental issues).
In terms of working with the community, a key enabler is to address issues that are relevant to people’s lives and that provide direct benefit to them (like reducing energy bills), rather than framing the work around abstract or contested issues like climate change.
Barriers include opposition or lack of support from management, corporate culture and competing priorities (particularly if environmental issues are not seen as ‘core business’ for health and community services), and the current political climate/ uncertainty /conflict over environmental issues and climate change.