The Healthwatch program was originally piloted in 2007 with Victorian Emergency Service Volunteers, and following an overwhelmingly positive response CFA received funding to extend the program in 2009.

The program provides free and confidential health checks to volunteer members across the state, and includes measures of height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood cholesterol (TC, HDL & LDL), triglycerides and glucose.

Heart disease has been identified as the leading cause of death in Australia for over a decade (15% of all deaths in 2011), whilst the percentage of deaths on the fire ground attributed to heart disease between 1990 and 2013 sits a staggering 41%.

These figures highlight the importance of early detection and early intervention, as well as the increased risk of cardiovascular disease that are associated with the high stress, high heat, high intensity work that our fire fighters regularly complete.

Since January 2009 over 11,000 health checks have been conducted across agencies, with the risk profile of CFA members improving dramatically. In 2013 1.6% of participants were identified as being at high risk of cardiovascular disease, a reduction from 3.9% in 2008.

Annually CFA’s Healthwatch program delivers approximately 1700 health checks across the state, accessing many rural and remote brigades that would otherwise have to travel far and experience long waiting periods to see a general practitioner for similar routine tests.

Of a recent survey 4 out of 5 program participants reported that they’d gained new health knowledge from their health check, 31% of people stated that they planned to follow up with their doctor regarding their results and over 96% were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall program.

At an individual level stories of high blood pressure that turned out to be a symptom of something worse, early detection of type 2 diabetes and cases of life-changing weight-loss as a result of the program, highlight the intangible benefits of the routine health check.

If you're a CFA volunteer you can book a Healthwatch session for your brigade here.