August 27, 2021

HOW-R-U?: Holistic Approach to Care

Person centred services and care takes into consideration all influences on a person’s health and wellbeing. Lack of adequate social support can lead to unnecessary health service usage.

The last 12 months have been challenging for everyone, particularly those who feel isolated and those who live alone. HOW-R-U? is a program that offers weekly social support via a telephone call provided by a volunteer. It has been delivered through a collaboration between Northern Health and Bolton Clarke as part of a Better Care Victoria grant, and aims to reduce symptoms of isolation, loneliness and depression through an improvement in mood and quality of life.

Volunteers encourage participants to make connections within their local communities based on interests chatted about during the calls. For example, the participant has indicated that they enjoy walking, but is hesitant to walk alone. The volunteer can then provide information on local walking groups. Even if the participant doesn’t make these wider connections, it is hoped the mood of the participant improves thus having a positive impact on their wellbeing.

Initially the project used external volunteers from Bolton Clarke, but from March this year the program transitioned to using the services of our own wonderful Northern Health volunteers.

Sharryn Beard, Partnerships Manager says, “It has been wonderful to have the Northern Health volunteers conducting the calls, which has also given them a purpose.”

“Now that  the project is ongoing is such a fantastic outcome for the wellbeing of our community, and that’s due to the Volunteer Services Teams support and their belief in the program,” says Sharryn.

Recently, staff from the Community Services teams were surveyed about the HOW-R-U? program. Staff reported that they believe clients “really appreciate having someone checking on them” and that when the client makes a real connection it is very useful.

Says Henni Wade, Manager Volunteer Services, “We recently even recruited a few interstate volunteers. The participants and volunteers don’t meet face to face, so being local isn’t really a requirement.”

“We are also looking into a good old-fashioned ‘pen-pal’ program for these participants who wish to continue past the 12 week program,“ she adds.

To refer a patient to the HOW-R-U? program, clinicians need to make a clinical judgement on whether their patients would benefit from the program and ensure that the referred patient consents to the calls. Send an email to or for more information call 8405 8971.


Featured image shows Eric Seychell, one of our HOW-R-U Volunteers.