Organisation name:National Heart Foundation of Australia
Brief outline of program:Heart Foundation Walking is Australia’s largest network of free community based walking groups led by volunteer community members. Every walking group is different – they vary in the number of members, levels of difficulty, and duration – and everyone is encouraged to walk at their own pace. There are groups in metropolitan, regional and remote locations, and different groups meet on various days of the week and times of the day. Walks usually occur twice per week and can be up to 90 minutes in duration, with the average walking time of 45 minutes. Walkers can choose to be part of one or more walking groups in their area.
Walkers are encouraged to join the Walker Recognition Scheme which provides incentives and recognition at particular walking milestones (e.g., 25 walks). Walkers have the option of receiving a quarterly newsletter and participating in regular walking events.
A flexible program model allows for walking groups to be established in a variety of settings, including local neighbourhoods, shopping centres, retirement villages, aged care facilities, community health centres, hospitals, and urban, state and national parks.
LGAs can contact the Heart Foundation to discuss potential program modifications, as required. For example, Paddock Walks could be established in small regional communities with limited access to suitable walking environments.
Program target:Heart Foundation Walking is suitable for all adults who want to be more active, including those with, or at risk of, chronic disease.
The program offers a multiple specialty groups tailored to encourage groups with special needs or focus. These include:
- cultural groups;
- dog walking groups;
- parents with prams;
- mental health groups;
- homeless shelters;
- men’s sheds; and
- women’s only groups.
Who delivers the program?Each walking group is led by a community member (volunteer Walk Organiser) and groups are coordinated at a local level by community agencies (Area Coordinator).
Area CoordinatorsThe Heart Foundation recruits, trains and supports Area Coordinators to administer, support and promote the program. Area Coordinators are not employed and remunerated by the Heart Foundation. Rather, they are primarily employees of local governments, community health centres, local recreational facilities and neighbourhood houses who have the support of their organisation to establish walking groups in their local area. The Heart Foundation provides the Area Coordinators with training, professional development opportunities, support materials, merchandise, hard copy resources and promotional tools. Area Coordinators typically spend an average of one to two hours per week of their work time fulfilling their commitment to organising the walking groups in their local area.
Walk OrganisersWalk Organisers are community members who are recruited by Area Coordinators to volunteer to lead a walking group in their neighbourhood. No specific qualifications are required as they receive the necessary training from the Area Coordinator.
Training provided to those who deliver the program:
Area CoordinatorsThe Heart Foundation provides all new Area Coordinators with a one-on-one training session (either in person or over the phone) and an implementation manual. The training provides Area Coordinators with the necessary information and knowledge required to administer, support, and promote the program. It also provides instruction on identifying and training volunteer walk organisers.
Walk OrganisersArea Coordinators provide training to Walk Organisers. This training covers topics such as risk and safety information, motivation of walkers, warning signs of heart attack, physical activity guidelines, administrative requirements and other more general heart health information. Walk Organisers are covered by the Heart Foundation’s volunteer insurance policy following the training and registration with Heart Foundation Walking.
Cost of training:Heart Foundation training, support and resources are provided free to Area Coordinators, who in turn provide free training and support to Walk Organisers.
Cost of participating in the program:There is no cost for walkers to participate in the program and there is no cost to LGAs who want to become an Area Coordinator and access the Heart Foundation Walking resources.
Venue and equipment:Walking groups can be established in almost any setting. There is no special equipment required to participate in the walking groups.
How the organisation will engage with LGAs to offer the program:An enquiry pack will be sent to all LGA Grant recipients and Heart Foundation staff will contact Healthy Communities Coordinators, either by phone or in person, to:
- explain the walking program;
- discuss the particular priorities of the LGA and program delivery options;
- identify potential Area Coordinators; and
- identify stakeholders for consultation/collaboration.
Based on consultations with Healthy Communities Coordinators and other stakeholders, the Heart Foundation will then provide the necessary support for the implementation and delivery of the program in the LGA.
How the organisation will support the delivery of the program in LGAs:The Heart Foundation will provide ongoing support to Area Coordinators, including strategies for communications, media and advocacy, regular newsletters and telephone contact, and Area Coordinator network meetings or training updates. Area Coordinators are provided with a step by step manual for implementing the program in their area, as well as resources such as Walkers kits, Walk Organiser kits, flyers, posters, etc. The Heart Foundation Walking website also provides Area Coordinators with online support and motivational strategies for recruiting and retaining walkers.
Support for Walk Organisers includes the Area Coordinator holding refresher workshops to provide program updates and to allow organisers to network, share ideas and maintain their skills. Merchandise, including hats and polo shirts are provided for free to the volunteer Walk Organisers as recognition for their role.
The Heart Foundation also provides a walker recognition scheme to encourage participants to walk regularly and to motivate Walk Organisers to send in the monthly attendance log for their group. Rewards include certificates, towels, caps, and gift vouchers. There is also a monthly prize draw for all walkers who have logged their attendance, with prizes such as Heart Foundation pedometers and cookbooks.