Linda Hindle OBE
Linda Hindle OBE

Since the term ‘wider workforce for the public’s health’ was first defined in 2015 following the publication of the RSPH report, Rethinking the public health workforce; allied health professionals (AHPs) have embraced their public health role.

Across the 14 professions that make up the AHPs, there is real enthusiasm and an appetite to understand how prevention and health promotion can be integrated into daily work. AHPs have led the way in showing how a group of professionals with the ‘ability or opportunity to improve or protect the public’s health’ (the official definition of the wider workforce), through a trusting relationship with individuals, can extend their expertise and skills to develop a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. This is important because AHPs work across all sectors related to health and well-being including but not limited to health, social care, education, justice, voluntary sector, housing, academia, business, and private practice; and they collectively make up the third largest workforce in the NHS.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with AHPs from across the UK to develop and implement the UK wide public health strategic framework. This framework highlights how AHPs and their teams can build their public health role in the future and the emphasis we are collectively putting on developing the workforce, demonstrating impact, and increasing the profile of AHPs in public health and strategic leadership.

There are a number of definitions of public health, and we have used these to develop a model relevant to the roles of AHPs, describing how AHPs contribute to public health across four areas:

• Wider determinants – also known as social determinants, are a diverse range of social, economic, and environmental factors that impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Addressing the wider determinants of health and wellbeing has a key role to play in reducing health inequalities.

Health Improvement – describes the work to improve the health and mental well-being of individuals, communities, or populations through enabling and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and developing resilience.

Population healthcare – Population healthcare is concerned with maximising the population benefits of healthcare by prioritising available resources, by preventing diseases, and by improving health-related outcomes through the design, access, utilisation, and evaluation of effective and efficient healthcare interventions and pathways of care.

Health Protection – aims to protect the population’s health from communicable diseases and other threats, while reducing health inequalities.

Whilst this model is helpful, it is clear that the application of public health approaches is context and profession-specific; it might look and feel different to a paramedic, an orthoptist, or an art therapist.  We therefore worked with the 14 AHP professional bodies to describe public health in the context of each individual profession. This work included conversations with many AHPs and AHP support workers as well as desktop research. The result is a suite of infographics summarising AHP public health roles in the words of members of each profession. We have purposely kept these descriptors concise and presented them as infographics, so they represent a sample rather than an exhaustive list. For those who want more information, there is a handbook describing in more detail the contribution of each profession including links to case studies.

I hope these infographics will support AHP Teams to think about the different ways they can and already do improve and protect the public’s health; as well as giving other colleagues a flavour of the work AHPs do as part of the wider public health workforce.

Linda Hindle OBE and Kanar Ahmed