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Sustainable, professional workforce to boost health promotion efforts

Introduction by Croakey: Health promotion professionals can play a key role in the development of healthy communities across Australia.

This week the peak organisation representing health promotion professionals, the Australian Health Promotion Association, is welcoming its 100th registered practitioner.

In the article below, Dr Marguerite Sendall of the Queensland Institute of Technology, outlines the importance of this milestone and how the field is contributing to preventive health.


Marguerite Sendall writes:

AS we have travelled through the coronavirus pandemic over the past 15 months or so, public health and health promotion has been at the forefront of the public lexicon.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the business of preventive health in a way we couldn’t have imagined and helps us understand the importance of a valued, highly skilled, stable and professionally protected workforce.

Health promotion practitioners are responsible for the planning, development, implementation and evaluation of health promotion policies and projects using a various strategies, including health education, mass media, community development and community engagement processes, advocacy strategies, social marketing, health policy, and environmental strategies.

Dr Marguerite Sendall

Prevention push

Pre-COVID, the prevention agenda was gaining some traction, most notably as an important piece of the Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan pie. As part of this pie, in 2019, the Federal Government announced a 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy.

After a public consultation process, a draft Strategy was released. Peak professional bodies like the Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA), in chorus with other preventive health organisations such as Climate and Health Alliance, provided feedback on the draft Strategy.

For the first time ever, the AHPA is confident there is a genuine recognition of the salient issues, such as the social determinants of health and climate change, pervading the health environment.

Commitment to prevention

One of the most exciting shifts outlined in the Strategy is a commitment to increase the prevention budget (which usually hovers at a measly 1.5–2%) to 5% of the total health budget. On the whole, the peak bodies welcome the shift in the Government’s position but feel these fundamental issues need be more front and centre of the Strategy to ensure the long-term health outcomes for all Australians.

Not unexpectedly, there was no direct allocation of funds for the Strategy in the 2021-2022 Federal budget.

What does this mean for the health promotion workforce? In a nutshell, it means we need to ensure the integrity, capacity and quality of the health promotion workforce in Australia. One of the ways we can do this is through the registration of health promotion practitioners.

In the late 1990s, leading practitioners began working on a set of core competencies for health promotion practice in Australia. At the same time, a succession of working groups and committees as part of the International Union of Heath Promotion and Education (IUHPE), developed a set of international core competencies for health promotion.

Today, these international core competences are the foundation for the registration of health promotion practitioners in Australia.

The AHPA is the National Accreditation Organisation for the IUHPE in Australia. There are two ways to become an IUHPE Registered Health Promotion Practitioner (RHPP): graduate from an accredited health promotion course; or submit an application addressing the health promotion core competencies.

Registration milestone

The AHPA passed an important milestone recently when it welcomed its 100th registration.

Sarah Lausberg has been working in health promotion since 1998, and registered to become an IUHPE RHPP when she commenced her role as Health Promotion Manager in community health. She noted that registration was increasingly listed as desirable in job descriptions at both the practitioner and manager level.

Sarah Lausberg

“I had also heard about the use of the competencies in performance and development review processes,” she said.

Sarah said she was also keen to support efforts to professionalise the health promotion field.

“I felt that this competency-based registration would bring about recognition of the skills and knowledge that health promotion professionals hold,” noting that international recognition of her skills was also a drawcard.

Attaining registration had also been an important part of her professional development over the past year, she said.

“It has complemented my work supervising staff in my role as Health Promotion Manager, and I have also become a mentor in the AHPA mentoring program,” she said, noting that the process of applying for registration was, in itself, a worthwhile professional development activity.

“Registration enables you to identify areas in which you would like to gain more experience and also identify competencies that may be transferrable to other roles.”

With 100 RHPPs now in Australia, the profession is set to make a significant contribution to the future of health promotion, healthy communities and a healthy Australia.

Dr Marguerite Sendall is an academic in the School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. Marguerite has more than 20 years of experience in health promotion encompassing health promotion practice in schools, teaching postgraduate health promotion theory and practice, supervising health promotion research students, undertaking applied research in workplace health promotion and as an active member of the Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA). She is currently South-West Pacific Regional committee, IUHPE, and an invited member, Global Accreditation Review Committee IUHPE.


See our previous stories on prevention.

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