Coorong Healthy Highways

Design Features
Type of Project
Local Government Initiative

Coorong Healthy Highways (CHH) is an innovative partnership project led by the Coorong District Council, its OPAL team (until the funding ceased in June 2017) and local businesses. Its aim is to help local cafes, restaurants and other food outlets create healthier menus, and promote them to support healthier lifestyles for the Coorong community and its visitors. CHH is aimed at all demographics and benefits the many daily travelers through the region as well as locals, truck drivers, families and children.

Supporting healthy choices

Over the past decade the prevalence of diet-related diseases on a national level has risen. The initiative is an important project due to the increasing prevalence of national co-morbidities poor eating habits and low exposure of healthy foods. These issues affect all generations and statistics show that rural populations are at a disadvantage (see reference 1). This is due to a number of factors and includes low availability of health food options, low incomes and increased distances to travel.

The Coorong district spans across 8,836 square kilometers and has a population of close to 6000 people. Towns are separated by large distances increasing the need for vehicle transport and reducing the opportunity for physical activity. Three main tourist highways run through the Council – these are the Mallee, Princes and Dukes highways – connecting South Australia to the Eastern States. With this comes the perfect opportunity to engage thousands of daily drivers along these routes, and at the same time take advantage of an increasing trend towards accessing fresh and nutritious food on the go. Coorong Healthy Highways has been designed around consumer trends that are shifting towards purchasing healthier foods over traditional takeaways (see reference 2).

This is supported by recent statistics from the Dietitians Association of Australia, showing more than half the national population want to lose weight and change their eating habits to lead healthier lifestyles (see reference 3). The three key project goals are to:

  1. Support business to offer and market healthier choices;
  2. Encourage the public to make those healthy choices by purchasing food from accredited providers; and
  3. Drive business to the door of local Coorong food retailers.
Signage at an accredited food outlet
Signage at an accredited food outlet

The project has opened accreditation to food outlets in the Coorong district, which have healthy food and drink choices as part of their menu. The public can find out about these outlets on their mobile device using the Coorong Healthy Highways website, via roadside and shop front signage, and when they enter a CHH outlet they will clearly see which menu items are healthy choices.

Fresh fruit salad pots.
Fresh fruit salad pots.

Children and families are a target audience in our campaign therefore a large focus has been on working with outlets to create healthier meals for children. The project has helped introduce healthy kid’s meals and meal deals to several outlets that previously didn’t offer them. The healthy meals swap deep fried options for fresh foods such as vegetable lasagna, cold rolls, salad sandwiches and wraps. Soft drinks and ice cream desserts are also replaced with healthier options such as water, fruit and yogurt. 

This project is unique to South Australia and is being promoted to a national audience through public relations and social marketing campaigns that are highly visual. The profile of the project has been built around the iconic Coorong Healthy Highways logo and has included investment in road side signage, mobile friendly website, printed material and merchandise. Local produce is also used and promoted where possible. Locally caught Coorong mullet is an example of fresh local produce that features on some of the Coorong Healthy Highways menus.

Project team

  • Coorong District Council
  • OPAL (Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle) Program
  • Heart Foundation SA Division
  • SA Health, Healthy Kids Menu Taskforce
  • Flinders University, School of Health Sciences
  • 23 Coorong District food outlets

Project cost

Media, branding and merchandise, website and promotions $30,000 This project is part of the OPAL initiative in this council. The project was developed and managed by the OPAL team.