In 2013 the Western Bulldogs Football Club commenced development of a Men’s Health Program designed to promote health and prevent disease in men aged 18 + living or working in the West of Melbourne.
The driver – the Bulldogs wanted to leverage the power and passion of footy to make a difference to the lives of those living in our backyard, the Western Region of Melbourne.
Sons of the West is the result of this vision – an innovative free health program aimed at engaging up to 2,000 men across the West of Melbourne in simple, healthy activities aimed at boosting their health.
No-nonsense, easy to access activities aimed at improving awareness and general health levels – no boot camps; no marathons; no extremes – more fun than pain, but a 10-week program to help men live healthier, eat healthier and get back in the game of life.
Based in part on English Premier League (EPL) club Liverpool FC’s (LFC) highly successful men’s health program - Sons of the West came about as a result of a meeting between Bulldogs and LFC officials when the Dogs visited the UK in the preseason of 2012.
In 2013 the Bulldogs returned LFC hospitality – hosting the EPL clubs community arm, the Liverpool FC Foundation, when the team toured Australasia in 2013.
Liverpool FC Foundation Head of Foundation Operations Mark Haigh:
"The Liverpool FC Foundation are delighted to have shared the learning from our men's health programme with the Western Bulldogs.
In visiting Melbourne as part of the LFC official club tour in the summer of 2013 we shared in the enthusiasm and determination of the Western Bulldogs to have a similar positive impact on the lives of men locally.
Our collaborative alliance is a great example of a tangible legacy of that tour programme. Two clubs. Two communities. One aim. Better men's health"
With over 1000 registerations in 2014 and 2100 in 2015, the program was a raging success for the Western Bulldogs, our partners and for the community out West.
In 2016, the program has expanded from the initial five sites across Melbourne’s west, to now 12 sites across Victoria's west with two new locations in regional Victoria.
Achieving health and social inclusion outcomes through sport
Sporting organisations have an important role to play in addressing key areas of men’s health and well-being beyond the elite level. The reach of sport, especially AFL into Australian communities makes AFL clubs a significant candidate to achieve organisational, attitude and behavioural change that improves health in communities especially for men.
As a recognised community leader in the Western Region of Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs Football Club has the connection, reach and demonstrated record through our community programs, to partner with governments and stakeholders to deliver health and social inclusion outcomes that will reduce the economic health burden.
Why the West?
Men living in Victoria's West face some of the toughest health challenges in Victoria including:
- Males living in Maribyrnong have the lowest life expectancy in urban Victoria (76.5 years)
- 39.9 per cent of Victorian males are over-weight or obese - in Hobson’s Bay this jumps to 50 per cent.
- Less than 1 in 5 Victorian men smoke - in Brimbank this jumps to 1 in 3.
- In Victoria 41 per cent of people report being involved in organised sport – in Wyndham only 30 per cent are involved in sport
- 9 per cent of men living in Melton are classified as sedentary – almost double the Victorian average
- 19.3% of men withing the Central Highlands of regional Victoria are obese.
Sons of the West aims to:
- Improve the health of all men aged 18 years and over who live, work or recreate in Victoria's west including the cities of Melton, Wyndham, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Brimbank and Ballarat.
- Contribute to the health of communities in Victoria's west.
- Establish the Western Bulldogs as an international sporting leader in promoting club and community health
- Use sport as a vehicle to provide an understanding and awareness of health services in Victoria.
- Implement and evaluate a sport based Health Promotion Program that is sustained within the Western Bulldogs Club and translated to other football clubs and leagues
Health Issues to be addressed:
- Increase physical activity;
- Increase healthy eating;
- Raise awareness of family violence and violence against women;
- Reduce overall smoking rates;
- Develop healthy social networks that aim to increase social connection and cohesion;
- Targeted communication and education strategies that aim to:
- Raise awareness of anxiety and depression, whilst providing resources for recovery, management and resilience;
- Address problem gambling;
- Gender equality;
- Address the importance of screening for cancer.
The Western Bulldogs approach to community leadership within the region is whole heartedly centred around building partners. Sons of the West is no different with the Bulldogs partnering with major partner North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network and platinum partners VicHealth and Victoria University.
The delivery of the program would not be possible without supporting partners Western Health, Maribyrnong, Brimbank, Melton, Ballarat, Hobsons Bay and Wyndham City Councils and community partners from across health, community and business.
This project has been funded by the MRNWM-ML Legacy Grants Program, honouring its legacy of commitment to the long term health of the North Western Melbourne and Macedon Ranges community.