Tackling the energy-health nexus

The Energy/Health Hardship Nexus:
A case for systematic change

On Monday 29 April, VCOSS hosted an online forum on Breaking the Energy/Health Hardship Nexus. This event was funded by Energy Consumers Australia as part of its grants process for consumer advocacy projects and research projects for the benefit of consumers of electricity and natural gas. VCOSS launched four provocations on energy and health hardship (see papers above), and invited colleagues to share their own research and projects.

The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action and cohealth made a presentation on their collaborative outreach intervention that identified and successfully supported people experiencing energy hardship.   

Sustainability Victoria shared a promising intervention established to proactively identify and support vulnerable people who are at risk of developing a health condition through energy hardship.   

And Dr Nicola Willand from RMIT shared the outcomes from her inspiring research that showed how new systemic linkages between service organisations could help to identify households that under-use energy and fall outside existing systems of detection and support.

It’s well established that living in conditions that are too hot or too cold can significantly affect our health and wellbeing.

Despite this, there is a siloed approach to energy policy, with energy hardship typically framed in straightforward economic terms rather than as a public health challenge. 

Community-based healthcare and frontline workers are a trusted profession and offer huge potential to:

  • Identify community members experiencing energy hardship, and
  • Connect them to energy assistance schemes.

About the project

VCOSS has received funding from Energy Consumers Australia to run a two-year project with a goal to create systematic change to tackle energy hardship from a new perspective.

We will create new pathways between the health and energy systems, helping identifying vulnerable community members at an earlier stage and ultimately put an end to the damaging health energy nexus.

Project objectives  

The two-year project will build on VCOSS’ research about why Victorians are missing out on energy concessions – The Missing 14% – and take the next steps towards better health/energy outcomes for Victorians.  

Focusing on awareness, advocacy and policy integration, the project will:  

  • Promote clear recognition of the nexus between energy hardship and health across the energy, health and housing sectors, including in their policies and programs.   
  • Establish new connections between energy market and health system actors, to better identify and support people experiencing the energy-and-health hardship.  
  • Develop capability and education approaches to leverage health system relationships, reach and impact.   

Critical Friends Reference Group 

This project is supported by a dedicated group of health and energy system experts. The ‘critical friends’ group will provide advice around project activity, foster cross-sectoral collaboration and facilitate advocacy. Members include:

  • Anne-Maree Kaser Alliance of Rural and Regional Community Health
  • Damien Sullivan Brotherhood of St Laurence
  • Steven Jiang cohealth
  • Karl Barratt and Zoe Pilven Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action
  • Caroline Valente Energy Consumers Australia
  • Kate Seymons Essential Services Commission
  • Nicholas Hunter and Virginia Lewis La Trobe University
  • Carolyn Neilson Loddon Prevention & Population Health Bendigo Health
  • Harry Patsamanis Lung Foundation Australia
  • Tricia Quibell Northern District Community Health Primary Care Connect
  • Nicola Willand RMIT University
  • Toby Cumming Sustainability Victoria
  • Toli Papadopoulos Victorian Healthcare Association


The project’s overarching goal is to establish new connections between energy market and health system actors, to better identify and support people experiencing the energy-and-health hardship.

This will be achieved through a series of planned project activities as outlined below.  

Project activity:  

  • A literature review on the hardship nexus (La Trobe University) to synthesise existing research   
  • Development of a provocation paper to spark thought and debate with key market actors  
  • Health and energy systems mapping to identify intersectionality and gaps between the sectors   
  • A stakeholder forum to formally launch the provocation paper to key health and energy market actors   
  • Qualitative research with community health services and energy market actors   
  • Development of capability-building resources   
  • Public advocacy, sector engagement and insight dissemination   
  • Cross-sector coalition-building   

The recommendations and outcomes stemming from this project will be presented to the Victorian Health and Human Services Partnership Implementation Committee and the Victorian Department of Energy and Environment and Climate Action Consumer Insights Forum.  

Work status

Project duration
September 2023 – August 2025

Key contact
Deborah Fewster

Energy Consumers Australia

VCOSS acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country, and we pay respect to Elders and Ancestors. Our business is conducted on sovereign, unceded Aboriginal land. The VCOSS offices are located on Wurundjeri Woiwurrung land in central Naarm.