Hard Questions for Get Healthy NSW

Running athleteRecently this writer received a brochure pack from NSW Health. It was branded  Get Healthy Information and Coaching Services, and labelled with an official NSW Health logo.

It promoted a program that offers a personal health coach and up to 10 free coaching calls to help live a healthier life and lose weight. The covering letter informed the writer that it was possible to swap indoor activities for outdoor ones, or a big meal for a small meal.

Apparently this type of advice has already helped “thousands of men and women to reach their health goals”. The current published results  state 12,000 people contacted the service, but merge online requests for an information kit with those who got coaching, making true engagement difficult to discern. At December 2011, 1,990 were currently enrolled or graduated from coaching, which also obscures real engagement, since enrollment is not indicative of completion.

The basis of the independent evaluation is not available, nor is the basis for baseline data collection. Notable in the results is the absence of cost or cost-benefit. Since evaluation is being undertaken by Prevention Research Collaboration at Usyd, I venture to say it will not be the robustly cynical assessment someone like this writer might provide.

Intriguing, too, is that the website is ACT and Tasmania branded. Are the reported data stratified by state? Is the expenditure shared?

Now I accept that it is important to reduce risk factors for early death. But that alone does not mean that NSW Health has to spend money doing it.

Given that life, personal training and health coaching are well established private businesses, it is curious that the NSW government feels the need to be involved. Very curious indeed, if the quality of information provided reaches the dizzying heights of, well, eat less and get outside.

Apart from the facts that this writer is not overweight, can afford to buy his own advice and is capable of identifying basic steps to losing weight, what in the world makes NSW Health think promoting this to people like me is a spending choice that provides more benefit than my old standby, respite care, or any other real service to people in need?

With this in mind, I have posed NSW Health a series of questions. I look forward to their prompt response – with supporting raw data, of course.

  • What is the annual budget for the Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service Campaign? Over what period does it have/has it had funding?
  • How many households were sent the Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service Campaign pack, and what was its cost over the length of the program? Are there any intended future mailouts, and if so, what is their forecast cost?
  • Were there any other channels used to promote the program, and if so, what were their cost?
  • What is the estimated cost per coaching client including promotional cost, publication cost, mailing cost, service cost and administrative cost? What evidence is there of this estimate?
  • How many calls have been made to the hotline since the campaign began, and what percentage have led to completed coaching services?
  • How many coaching clients are there/have there been for the service, and what was the forecast?
  • How many staff have been dedicated to the promotional project and the ongoing hotline coaching service?  What has been the total staff cost for the program? What has been the total consulting/contract cost for the program?
  • What cost-benefit analysis was undertaken before this program was approved and started?
  • What performance criteria are there to establish if the program is a success? How was cost effectiveness considered? What constitutes a successful program? What constitutes value for money?
  • What measurable and directly attributable improvements in public health are expected from this program?
  • How does the evaluation validate baseline data? What numbers of participants provide sufficient data for full program evaluation and result measurement?
  • Why does NSW Health feel this is an appropriate expenditure when private services are active in the same area, and the NSW Health budget is limited?

As always, there is a GIPA request drafted in the event of an inadequate answer.

This is becoming far too common an activity. The writer needs to get a life.


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