The Work of AHPA
The AHPA board, branches and committees progress the work of AHPA including policies, advocacy, communication, professionalisation, workforce development, finance, the journal and much more.
AHPA’s achievements are the result of the commitment of its members, its board, branches and committees. This section illustrates the work and members of AHPA. Contributions are welcome.
AHPA WA Members
What kind of work do people do when working in health promotion? How do you overcome some of the misconceptions about our practice? What advice do you have for those interested in working in health promotion? How does AHPA membership help?
The WA Branch of AHPA has collected stories from their members to put a face to health promotion in practice.
WA Country Health Service
In my role as Health Promotion Officer at WA Country Health I often get asked what health promotion is. I describe it as working in preventative health, and trying to stop people getting sick by giving people information, skills, and support to make healthier choices for themselves and their families. To overcome misconceptions held by others about health promotion I describe some of the projects on which I work and provide information regarding the numbers of people affected by potentially preventable conditions - including the cost. Knowing the impact that healthy choices can make on someone's quality of life motivates me in my day to day work.
One thing that I find is an ongoing challenge in health promotion is resistance to some of the health messages, for a variety of reasons. Overcoming this is an ongoing, long-term process that relies heavily on building strong relationships.
In health promotion communication skills are absolutely crucial, particularly the ability to 'speak the language' of those you're trying to communicate with, be they health professionals, NGOs, community etc. Also, flexibility is key so that you are able to constantly adapt your practice to reflect the continual learning about what works in the community.
My advice for anyone wanting to get into health promotion or anyone who is just starting out is to consult with, and listen to, the community about what they want and need. There needs to be community ownership; this might mean things don't look like you thought they would, but activities and programs developed with the community rather than for the community are more likely to engage people and achieve meaningful outcomes.
Since becoming a member of AHPA my knowledge of activities and opportunities outside of the specific health promotion areas in which I work has increased, which gives me a good understanding of the 'bigger picture'. My role on the WA committee has provided the chance to develop skills and add some great experience to my CV, and has been really positive for networking.
Kirsty de Blanken
Department of Health
What inspires me in my role as a Senior Health Promotion Officer in the Community and Population team is the capacity for change! When you look at the amazing decrease that has been achieved in, for example, smoking rates over the last 50 years, it reminds me that we are working towards something so achievable.
Working in the field of health promotion for over 9 years I’ve heard many misconceptions about health promotion and when responding to these rumors I always try to come back to the fact that I work with communities to help keep people out of hospital. You often hear laughter and people saying that you are the nanny state or fun police, but I tell them that our work is about people being allowed a choice. There isn't a choice if people in a certain area have easy access to many fast food outlets and no access to good quality, reasonably priced fruit and vegetables; there is no choice if they don't know how to cook or if they can't afford the electricity to put the oven. When you describe a bit more about social determinants and environmental factors for health, it does sink in a bit more.
When asked what my role in health promotion is, I find it easier to talk about the risk factors I work on (the SNAP framework), as people seem to understand it better if I talk about helping people to eat healthier and stop smoking than describe the policy and environmental changes that are actually happening behind the scenes.
The skills I believe are necessary to successfully work in the field of health promotion are:
- Passion and enthusiasm to help you bring others (stakeholders or partners and the community) along with you
- Tenacity and strength to get through the ups and downs of the work
- Flexibility and an ability to adapt to change.
Being an AHPA member has helped me connect with my colleagues on a different level. It has provided me with opportunities to keep learning and to develop skills I otherwise wouldn't in my day to day role, and to network with people I might not normally meet. And it has given me a support network and friends who understand my work.
Department of Health
When I introduce myself as a Health Promotion Officer I often get asked what health promotion is. It’s not the easiest role to summarise, but I tell them that I work with local councils and community groups to help people make healthy choices in their everyday life.
I am lucky that I get to work in both the country and the city in my roles at the WA Country Health Service and Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA (PHAIWA), and I am fortunate to meet and work with some amazing, motivated and passionate people. I recognise that it is easy to get frustrated every now and then when the results of your hard work are not seen straight way. I recognise that behaviour change takes time, so I make a big effort to reflect on the progress of my work and celebrate the small wins. My inspiration for health promotion comes from everyday people – I get inspired when I meet people achieving great things in the face of adversity. It puts things into perspective and reminds me why I do what I do. When I hear the many misconceptions health professionals and the community have about health promotion I usually share stories and experiences from my time working in remote WA, and how health promotion has made a different to the lives of many children, families and the wider community.
I think the skills and attitudes that are vital in health promotion are:
- Passion - You have to be passionate about health promotion and you need to have the desire to make a difference
- People skills are essential - compassion and empathy are really important.
My advice to anyone who is studying or wanting to get into health promotion is to:
- Go rural - working in the country brings you so much reward and puts things into perspective
- Be open to learning new things and don't assume you already know it. Health promotion in the real world is very different to how you may see it at Uni
- Be a sponge for information – listen, listen, listen – you are always learning
- Seek a mentor - hearing different perspectives, ideas & experiences challenges you to be innovative.
Being a part of AHPA has allowed me to develop a fantastic professional network, broaden my skill set and access research, professional development and mentoring, that has really benefited my career.
WA Local Government Association, RoadWise
To me health promotion is a process that empowers people to be able to control their own lives thus improving their own health and well-being and that of others. In the road safety field health promotion involves empowering all road users to make good decisions so as to not only maintain their own health on the roads but that of other road users. To achieve this both state and local government, local businesses and community groups must also take responsibility by positively contributing to road safety. In my role as a Road Safety Advisor at WA Local Government Association (WALGA) RoadWise this means promoting participation and community ownership; facilitating opportunities for local road safety leadership; supporting local road safety committees; providing access to resources and training; and sharing information.
When asked how I address misconceptions held by the community or health professionals about health promotion I reply that listening is a good starting point so as to identify any misconceptions about health promotion. This creates a favourable position to then challenge any misconceptions. Using evidence and knowledge I would then approach professionals or community members to discuss their misconceptions and change their understanding of health promotion.
I feel privileged to be in a position to empower others to better their health and well-being. I understand no one person can change the health of all people around the world but I can make a difference however big or small. I am a great believer we all have a responsibility to contribute to better health and the role as a health promotion officer is a positive position to do just that.
My role does include some challenging situations: changing behaviour towards zero fatalities and seriously injured people on WA roads is a big challenge. Due to evolving technologies that cause driver distraction, policy constraints and various other crash risk factors, road safety is something that cannot simply be achieved overnight. It's more a case of developing strategies to work with and change behaviour of road users and those in the road safety network are in a position to impact on behaviour change.
There are a number of key skills I believe are necessary to work successfully in health promotion including:
- Facilitation skills to be able to successfully network within your chosen field
- Communication skills are vital particularly listening, verbal and written skills
- Organisation skills are essential to be able to plan, implement and evaluate programs
- I also think computer skills are necessary in particular for research, presenting and effective use of media outlets.
For anyone looking at getting into health promotion my advice would be to research all the different areas/fields where the role of a health promotion officer may be of benefit. I was not aware at the beginning of my studies that road safety would be a health promotion role but this couldn't be further from the truth. Speak to other health promotion professionals about their role through networking opportunities. Sign up for newsletters and become a member of the Australian Health Promotion Association WA Branch to expand your knowledge, skills and contacts as well as assisting others to do the same. By being a member of AHPA I have been able to expand my knowledge of policies and procedures. I have improved my skills around Reconciliation Australia and Risk Register processes. Extending my network has been vital both at a personal level and to complement my current position at WALGA. Overall I enjoy being valued as a member of the Association with like-minded people sharing similar goals and outcomes.
North Metropolitan Health Service
The best way to improve the health of our community is to prevent illness and promote wellbeing, and health promotion allows us to do so. I believe health promotion is making the healthier choice, the easier choice.
The main skill that I believe is crucial in health promotion is:
- Excellent interpersonal skills - to engage and successfully work with the community, stakeholders and fellow health promotion professionals.
My advice for upcoming health promotion students is to network! Networking and volunteering provide invaluable experiences and opportunities.
Being a member of AHPA has been great; you have access to and are kept up to date on current and relevant health promotion information and have access to events and professional development opportunities.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation
In my role at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation I work with people and groups in the community to change the way sporting clubs approach alcohol. This can be challenging at times especially as we are competing with the alcohol industry. Job security is also of concern for me, however I’m driven by my inspiration to work in health promotion. This stems from the desire to work on a larger scale than when I worked clinically as a registered nurse. I often hear misconceptions floating around about health promotion and to overcome these I address them as they come up, and try to provide actual examples of what I do in my work.
I believe to be successful in health promotion effective communication is important - both within your organisation and outwards bound.
For anyone who is starting health promotion I think it is important to be prepared to be flexible, adaptable and open to short-term positions. Strive to find an area you want to work in, rather than a permanent position you lack passion for.
Being a member of AHPA has provided me with great opportunities to network beyond my region and great support in what I do.
Throughout my life I have lost a few people very close to me to preventable diseases. Health promotion really appealed to me because you are helping to prevent people from becoming sick in the first place. In my current role as Get Active Project Officer at Communicare, I help get kids who typically don’t participate in physical activity into sport and active recreation and a large part of my target group is helping people from refugee or migrant backgrounds access sport.
I describe health promotion to people as a job that helps to prevent illness and injury. We do this by creating supportive environments, advocating for health, educating and developing the community’s skills so the healthy choice is the easy choice. To overcome misconceptions about health promotion held by the community or health professionals I start by using examples of common programs and use facts and statistics not just opinion to support the truth.
Reaching the hard to reach has been one of the most challenging parts in my various health promotion roles. This is an ongoing issue, I find taking the time to go to your target group and build a strong rapport with them before trying to implement a program works. And involving them in decision and planning of the program helps too.
Health promotion requires a range of specific skills and the most important ones I believe lead to successful health promotion are:
- Patience and perseverance, as you are not going to see change overnight and it takes time to build relationships with the community, service providers and target group
- Collaboration and partnership building, this is important to ensure your program is as strong and holistic as possible
- Problem solving skills, being able to think outside the box to develop solutions to the red tape or low resources we often have to work with is vital
- Ability to research and understand the community's wants, needs and motivations. This can be tough at times but it's all worth it when you see change slowly occurring.
My advice to health promotion students is to try gain as much volunteer experience as possible whilst you’re studying as that really helps you put your knowledge into practice and makes connections. Also be open to go rural in your career as this gives you the opportunity to not only gain a enormous amount of industry experience, it also provides you with some valuable life skills and teaches you to do develop amazing programs with few resources.
Being a member of AHPA st has provided me with links to jobs and events that I've applied for or attended. I also love the fact I receive a hard copy of the journal every release, this helps me to keep up to date with the latest research in health promotion. Being able to access the mentor program was another invaluable opportunity that I was able to access through being an AHPA member, as I was matched with an experienced health promotion officer, where I was able to ask questions and seek a different perspective about strategies or issues.
Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA
With over six years of experience in health promotion I have developed a passion for public health, evidence informed behaviour change programs, and strategic development.
My first six years in the field were working within the not for profit sector with roles at the Injury Control Council of WA and Diabetes WA. In these roles I developed a strong foundation for using evidence informed practice, health promotion principles and it is where I started to build strong leadership skills. I am now working in a capacity building role at the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA where I get to work alongside other inspirational health promotion industry leaders.
The way I describe my role in Health Promotion is that I plan, implement and evaluate evidence informed health programs. I aim to prevent health problems and keep people out of hospital. To overcome some common misconceptions about health promotion I pick a couple successful campaigns that they would be familiar with and explain how this is health promotion or how health promotion fits in.
I am encouraged to go above and beyond in health promotion by knowing that the work I do can make a difference to a lot of people. I like to know that we are part of something amazing that helps people prolong their lives. One the most challenging things so far in my career I think is seeing the challenges faced in remote Aboriginal communities. I have learnt to adapt my facilitation and program implementation style in order to share the information. It has truly been a rewarding experience to visit Aboriginal communities, I have learnt so much from them whilst having the opportunity to help build their skills.
The skills that I consider vital for good health promotion include:
- Strong project planning, evaluation, research, and advocacy skills.
- You also need to be able to work autonomously as well as part of a team.
- Being able to develop good stakeholder relationships is critical.
- Consulting with consumers and being able to adapt information to a range of audiences.
For anyone who is starting out in health promotion the advice I would give them is to be willing to learn, read the evidence, be innovative, remember the social determinants of health in your everyday work, and that planning and evaluation are critical. Most importantly enjoy what you do, do not forget why you came into the field, and know that although it might take a while to make a difference we do make a big difference!
My network has expanded greatly as a result of being a member of AHPA. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing health promotion practitioners. Being a member of AHPA has benefited me greatly by enabling me to share the successes of my projects through News from the West and be mentored by a more experienced practitioner than myself. Being part of the WA Branch Committee has provided invaluable experiences, given me incredible opportunities to learn and grow, and I have been able to develop so many skills! I have also been able to develop my leadership skills and now I am the President of the AHPA WA Branch and a Director on the National Board.
Sarah Di Cristofaro
Project and Policy Officer, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service
When asked what inspires me about health promotion my answer is the fact that I can make a positive impact to society. I describe health promotion as working with communities to help make them healthier. We attempt to change the social, political and physical environment, not just behaviours. We look at underlying factors that affect people’s health such as education, income and social connectedness.
Working in the public sector that doesn't understand health promotion and all the levels of bureaucracy can make it difficult to implement best practice. To overcome this, I use my health promotion networks to provide support and I find ways to work around barriers. Common myths about health promotion are also prevalent within the community and with other health professionals. Where people misunderstand health promotion I try to overcome this by using examples of projects I have worked on, or using examples from well know health promotion campaigns such as "Smarter than Smoking" or "LiveLighter".
To successfully work in health promotion I believe having a sound knowledge of health promotion principles and theories, the ability to be flexible, being comfortable with networking and public speaking, as well as having a thick skin and persistence are important skills and attributes to have.
My advice for anyone studying health promotion or looking to get into the field is to establish you networks and be persistent. If it takes a while to get a job, don't give up. Sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time.
Being a member of AHPA has been very beneficial as it has provided me with access to the jobs list, e-news and journal articles keeps me up to date with what's going on in the health promotion field. Also the opportunity to be on the committee gives me the chance to fill gaps in my skill set, and it looks good on my CV.
AHPA’s membership is diverse with people working in a variety of fields and bringing different experience and expertise to help strengthen AHPA and health promotion in Australia.
The Communications Working Group
The Communications Working Group (WG) began meeting early in 2014; we thought we might just meet for a while and then disband but we are still going with an ever-growing workload!!
There seven active WG members meet monthly by teleconference. No special skills are required other than enthusiasm and time. The Group has a focus on three major areas:
The upgrade of the AHPA website – we have worked hard to develop this updated website! We identified the following goals for the website:
- To engage AHPA members
- To attract new members to AHPA
- To showcase the people and work of AHPA – that’s where this profile fits in
- To promote the importance of the health promotion profession and showcase health promotion policy and practice
- To maximise the functionality and currency of the website (Internal goal)
The Group reviewed the former site, identified what we wanted on the new site and went about revising all the content and seeking new content. We would love to hear from people who want to contribute to the site by providing photos and images, stories and case studies for inclusion.
Increasing our use of social media
The WG developed a social media policy and strategy that was finalised early in 2015. The Strategy includes a focus on building our use of Twitter with a minor focus on Facebook. Branches have taken turns to lead the tweeting for a month at a time. In response we now have 1658 followers and regular tweeting each week. In 2016 we will evaluate progress and identify the next steps to build our social media presence. With a reliance on volunteers and various levels of skills and experience with Twitter we are at the beginning of this process but hope to continue to build expertise.
Follow us on @AHPA_AU
Spotlight on the work of AHPA members.
Read Karen McPhail-Bell’s story about tweeting for AHPA in July 2016:
@AHPA_AU on Twitter: Reflections of an AHPA ‘host’ tweeter
Karen McPhail-Bell, AHPA NSW
Read her story here
SA Branch member, AHPA Vice-President
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Co-VIce President, WA Branch
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Vice President, SA Branch
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