October 20, 2022

Neela Konara: Building trusted partnerships, creating healthier communities

Neela Konara, Northern Health’s new Director of Partnerships, says, “As the leading health service in our catchment, we can only provide adequate health services if we understand our population’s diverse and evolving needs.”

A case in point is the current initiative Neela is supporting and that is the Healthy Schools for Healthy Futures campaign. The campaign aims to advocate to the Victorian Department of Education and Training to update the Healthy Eating and Other Food Services Policy for schools.

This policy change will result in school canteens across Victoria providing healthier choices to school children. This is a local campaign led by DPV Health, which is the community health service in Hume and Whittlesea.

“Our local partner organisations that work with these communities daily, have in-depth knowledge about the needs of these communities. Their input is invaluable when developing inclusive health services, along with our patient feedback,” Neela said,

“Partnerships are essential to provide effective health services to a catchment as diverse and fast-growing as ours.”

Hume LGA, for instance, which is in our catchment, has the second highest humanitarian intake in Victoria, and many newly arrived refugee families settle in this area. In addition, many new and established migrants and young families move into this catchment.

Neela brings to this role her credentials as the former Manager of Population Health and Community Engagement at DPV Health.

There, she was responsible there for rolling out inclusive preventative health initiatives with local partners across Hume and Whittlesea, with funding by the Department of Health. Prior to that, she worked with Cancer Council, primary care partnerships and local government.

Neela’s short-term objectives include setting in place effective systems for us to work more closely with local primary care providers.

“This would help us achieve our goals as a High Reliability Organisation and improve our equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives,” she says.

In the long term, she sees partnerships playing a vital role in bringing together all levels of health and community services, “to provide a client-centred approach to improve health outcomes for all, including the most disengaged communities in this catchment.”

“My hope is that the Partnerships team can contribute to Northern Health’s strategic directions, including creating healthier communities,” Neela said.