Attachment C: National Program Grants

Healthy Eating, Activity and Lifestyle Program (HEAL)

Page last updated: 20 April 2012

Organisation name:

Macarthur Division of General Practice (MDGP), in partnership with Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA)

Brief outline of program:

HEAL is an evidence-based lifestyle education and physical activity program. It operates as a group program, with eight two-hour sessions run on a continuous cycle. Participants undertake an initial assessment then join HEAL at any week in the cycle, continuing for eight consecutive weeks. Each week consists of a one hour lifestyle education session and a one hour exercise session. There is a maximum of 15 participants in each HEAL program.

The HEAL program involves:
  • Pre-screening: Participants must provide a completed referral form from a GP in order to participate. Alternatively, participants can complete a pre-exercise screening questionnaire and if any risks are identified, they will need to obtain medical clearance.
  • Initial assessment: Participants undertake an initial individual assessment to discuss their medical history, current eating behaviour, physical activity levels, and goals and expectations. An exercise assessment is conducted and measurements taken by a trained HEAL facilitator.
  • Nutrition, physical activity and behaviour modification education sessions: For eight weeks, participants attend a nutrition and healthy lifestyle education session on a different topic each week. Topics include label reading, recipe modification, eating away from home, myths and misconceptions, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Exercise sessions: In conjunction with the lifestyle education session, participants undertake a one hour, moderate-intensity, supervised group exercise session. A basic home-based exercise program is also provided for participants to use in between sessions.
  • Post-program assessment: An individual assessment is completed at the end of the eight week program. Changes to body measurements, eating and physical activity habits are assessed, and goals for the next three months are reviewed. A report summarising the outcomes of the review is sent to the referring GP.
  • Five and 12 month post program review: Five months and 12 months after commencing, participants are assessed against the same measures as the initial and post-program assessments. The outcomes of the reviews are sent to the referring GP.
Participants who have completed the eight week program can continue to attend weekly maintenance group exercise sessions, if available.

In certain circumstances, modifications may be made to the program delivery to suit community needs. For example, it may be possible to modify the exercise component to a pool-based delivery rather than land-based. LGAs can contact the HEAL project team to discuss potential program modifications, as required.

Program target:

HEAL is suitable for adults who are obese or at risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes.

Who delivers the program?

Only individuals who have completed a HEAL Facilitator training course may deliver the program. To be eligible for HEAL Facilitator training individuals must be qualified as either:
  • Accredited Exercise Physiologist; or
  • Accredited Practicing Dietitian.
Nurses, Physiotherapists, Aboriginal Health Workers or Occupational Therapists may be trained if difficulties arise in recruiting suitably qualified individuals to undertake the HEAL Facilitator training course.

Training provided to those who deliver the program:

HEAL uses a train-the-trainer model to train two tiers of HEAL Facilitators:
  1. Tier 1 HEAL Facilitators are trained to deliver the HEAL program in their local community, as well as become trainers of future Tier 2 HEAL Facilitators.
  2. Tier 2 HEAL Facilitators are trained by Tier 1 HEAL Facilitators to deliver HEAL to community members.
The HEAL Facilitator training courses are designed to provide the skills, knowledge and resources required to competently and safely deliver the HEAL program. The Tier 1 HEAL Facilitator training course is conducted face-to-face over two days and provides Tier 1 HEAL Facilitators with the skills and expertise required to conduct Tier 2 HEAL Facilitator training courses. The Tier 2 HEAL Facilitator training courses are delivered face-to-face over one day.

Tier 1 HEAL Facilitator training courses will be delivered in Sydney and Brisbane. Tier 2 HEAL Facilitator training courses will be delivered in every state and territory.

On completion of the training, HEAL Facilitators will sign a service level agreement that will require them to deliver at least one HEAL program to their community.

Cost of training:

The two day Tier 1 HEAL Facilitator training course is free. Costs associated with attending Tier 1 HEAL Facilitator training courses will be fully subsidised.

The cost of the Tier 2 HEAL Facilitator training course will be a maximum of $150. Travel subsidies will be made available to Tier 2 Facilitators who are located 100 kilometres or more from the training course.

Cost of participating in the program:

HEAL program participants are asked to contribute a maximum donation of $40 to HEAL Facilitators for the eight week program. Service level agreements with HEAL Facilitators require them to:
  • offer the HEAL program for free to concession card holders;
  • make flexible payment options available (e.g., payment per session, split payments); and
  • not exclude community members from participating if they cannot afford the donation.
There is no cost to LGAs who want to utilise the program. However, LGA Grant recipients may choose to subsidise participant costs, or to employ or contract a HEAL Facilitator to deliver the program at a set fee. Alternatively, LGA Grant recipients may wish to help local HEAL Facilitators recover costs associated with delivering the program by offering the use of equipment or venues for free.

Venue and equipment:

HEAL can be implemented in a variety of venues, providing there is enough space for up to fifteen participants to exercise safely. The program can be delivered with very limited or no access to exercise equipment.

How the organisation will engage with LGAs to offer the program:

The HEAL project team will contact Healthy Communities Coordinators by phone to:
  • explain the HEAL program;
  • discuss barriers to implementation and options for modifying goals and objectives of individual HEAL programs to suit community needs;
  • assist with identifying potential HEAL Facilitators and suitable venues;
  • discuss strategies to improve cost-effectiveness and sustainability of the program; and
  • discuss methods for community marketing and building community rapport with the program.
Further information about the HEAL program and marketing materials will be sent to interested Healthy Communities Coordinators.

How the organisation will support the delivery of the program in LGAs:

Ongoing discussions and networking with Healthy Communities Coordinators will be held to ensure the program is appropriate for the LGA’s needs. HEAL project staff will also assist LGA Grant recipients to establish and be supported by partnerships with the local HEAL Facilitator, local Divisions of General Practice, ESSA and other stakeholders.

All HEAL Facilitators in each LGA will receive support to deliver the HEAL program. HEAL Facilitators receive an operations manual, facilitator manual and participant manual, containing relevant materials such as presentations, referral forms, participant handouts, and materials for marketing and promotion. Facilitators are also provided with resistance tubing to use in the exercise sessions.

Subsidies of up to $300 may also be available to each HEAL Facilitator to support the implementation and establishment of the HEAL program in their LGA, including marketing and advertising and developing local resources unique to the region. The HEAL project team will assist HEAL Facilitators and LGAs in identifying venues and sourcing equipment as required.

More information:

For more information, contact Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) at