Lifestyle health of young people living in out-of-home care through the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEALing) Matters program

Young people living in out-of-home care (OOHC), who have been removed from their biological parents because of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse, are considered to be our most vulnerable and disadvantaged youth. They generally experience poorer health, social, educational and financial outcomes than young people not living in care.

HEALing Matters was the focus of Dr Rachael Green’s PhD thesis and has grown to become a Victorian Government funded online training package and knowledge exchange platform for OOHC residential workers and carers. The program was co-designed by Dr Green and Professor Helen Skouteris in partnership with key stakeholders, including end-users and young people with a lived experience of residential OOHC.

Its primary aim is to improve the eating and physical activity habits, as well as the wellbeing and life skills, of young people living in residential OOHC. HEALing Matters contributes to social and economic impact by reducing inequalities and promoting increased inclusion and health equity. Giving voice to young people and carers in the design and evaluation of HEALing Matters also empowers the community to take action and make meaningful changes to their social and physical environments.

The residential care workforce benefits from participation in HEALing Matters through capacity building that enables them to improve the lifestyle habits/routines of the young people they care for, helping them deliver on mandated requirements around healthy food and access to physical activity.

Dr Green is now project managing and leading the large-scale implementation and scale up of HEALing Matters across Victoria in partnership with the Victorian Department of Health, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, and community service organisations.

HEALing Matters was awarded the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science, Monash University, Dean’s Award for Research Excellence in Social and Economic Impact in 2020.