A WARRNAMBOOL program which has dramatically increased the number of children cycling and walking to school is being held up as a state benchmark for healthy lifestyle and sustainable transport.
The Healthy Moves project, co-ordinated by Warrnambool City Council in partnership with schools, police and businesses, has all 10 local primary schools involved, with about 1500 pupils taking the healthy route.
Even in winter between 30 per cent and 56 per cent of pupils regularly walk to school.
Project facilitator Nicole Wood spoke of the achievements at a Bike Futures annual conference in Melbourne.
“The theme of my presentation is that any behaviour change program requires the hearts and minds of the community,” she told The Standard.
“Healthy Moves is a Warrnambool initiative established to ensure promotion of active transport in schools is ongoing and sustainable.
“Last decade VicHealth research found that only 25 per cent of pupils were walking or cycling to school.
“Now all Warrnam-bool’s primary schools are involved, with an average of 40 per cent of pupils regularly walking, cycling or bussing to school, with between 60 and 100 per cent during event days.
“This equates to more than 1500 pupils taking part in Healthy Moves.”
The response and data collected about routes to school has helped gain an increase in funds for more school crossing supervisors. When state government funding in early years ceased, the burden was picked up by the council and South West Credit.
Later the Transport Accident Commission and VicRoads came on board and this year VicHealth provided $10,000.
“Benefits include incidental exercise, which helps reduce childhood obesity, reduction in cars around schools, improved road safety awareness and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” Ms Wood said.
“To my knowledge this is the only program which combines resources of local business and council, which includes all primary schools rather than leaving it to individual schools.”
VicHealth has invited children, parents and teachers to participate in Walk to School Month in November.