Empowering AHPs in public health

13 October 2015

Linda Hindle, Lead Allied Health Professional and National Engagement Lead for Police and Fire Services, Public Health England

In April 2014 the allied health professional family signed up to an ambition ‘to be recognised as an integral part of the public health workforce’.  We were responding to the urgent need to focus on preventative health care and saw the potential for the AHP workforce to make an impact. The Council of Deans of Health were strong advocates of this ambition.

In the past 18 months there has been a tangible shift in recognition of the AHP contribution to public health by AHPs themselves, system leaders and educators.  Two reports published in July 2015 by the Royal Society for Public Health and  the Centre for Workforce Intelligence highlighted AHPs as a workforce with the skills, capability and enthusiasm to make a significant impact as part of the wider public health workforce.

Today Public Health England and the Council of Deans of Health are launching a report which explores the extent to which public health is included within AHP undergraduate education. This report provides an initial snapshot view rather than an in-depth exploration or quality review. The purpose was to understand more about the relative priority given to public health within pre-registration education for AHPs; to explore programme leaders’ views on the public health competencies required of graduates and to seek examples of innovative educational practice.

The results are incredibly promising. There was broad consensus on the competences required across programmes and professions

  • An awareness of population health needs
  • An awareness of lifestyle risk factors, mental wellbeing and wider determinants of health and the opportunities they have to influence behaviours
  • An ability to raise health risks and undertake brief interventions (including key messages for major lifestyle risk factors)
  • Behaviour change skills
  • An understanding of public health interventions specific to their profession/area of specialism
  • Competence in assessing evidence of effective interventions
  • Understanding of evaluation
  • Recognition of the importance of prevention in health policy, strategies and care pathways

There was also high and increasing priority being given to public health with many examples of how public health has been threaded throughout curricula as well as through bespoke modules.  The findings from this report will feed into the review of the public health knowledge and skills framework being led by PHE and the system wide focus on the development of the wider public health workforce.

In early December of this year, PHE and the Allied Health Professionals Federation will publish their first joint Public Health Strategy for AHPs which will outline the actions needed to continue the journey to make prevention a core part of every AHPs’ role as well as to increase the utilisation of AHP expertise in setting the public health agenda and developing service.

This report and conversations with individual educators clearly show a desire and ability to support this public health journey.


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