When the UK Allied Health Professions (AHP) Public Health Strategic Framework 2019-20241 was launched in the summer of 2019, each of the four nations committed to developing an implementation plan for their respective country. I was delighted to be invited by Carolyn McDonald, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, to lead this work in Scotland and to attend UK Strategy Group meetings on her behalf. A Scottish Implementation Group has been convened and as well as its purpose to develop an implementation plan for the Framework in Scotland, it also has the remit to lead on the implementation of specific actions in the Framework on behalf of all four nations. In addition, it provides a national forum for AHPs with an interest in public health to combine expertise to develop and strengthen the contribution of AHPs to improving population health, and to share good practice.
The Scottish Implementation Group comprises representatives from the majority of geographical NHS Boards constituting a mix of professional backgrounds from all 14 AHP professions, representatives from NHS Education Scotland, Public Health Scotland, Higher Education Institutions, AHP Federation Scotland, the AHP Directors Scotland Group, the AHP Children & Young People’s National Lead, and the AHP Dementia National Lead. To date, the group has met on five occasions so it’s early days.
There are five goals set out in the Framework:
- Developing the AHP workforce: the AHP workforce will have the skills, knowledge and behaviours to promote, improve and protect the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and populations
- Demonstrating impact: AHPs will be able to demonstrate their contribution to improved population level health outcomes through robust evaluation and research
- Increasing the profile of the AHP public health role: AHPs will be recognised as valuable public health experts through ongoing profile raising of the AHP contribution to public health
- Strategic connections and leadership: Effective relationships will exist between AHPs and system leaders at local and national levels to make best use of AHPs to improve public health and reduce inequalities
- Health and wellbeing of the workforce: the expertise of AHPs will be used to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of health and care workers.
The broader strategic context within which this work sits involves a period of Public Health Reform in Scotland2 over recent years. In April 2020 Public Health Scotland was formed from the amalgamation of NHS Health Scotland, Health Protection Scotland and Information and Statistics Division Scotland. This new national body is sponsored by and is jointly accountable to the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). In 2018, the Scottish Government and COSLA published six public health priorities3. These represent a consensus on where there should be a collective focus across a variety of agencies to improve population health over the next decade, and include:
- A Scotland where we live in vibrant, healthy and safe places and communities.
- A Scotland where we flourish in our early years.
- A Scotland where we have good mental wellbeing.
- A Scotland where we reduce the use of and harm from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
- A Scotland where we have a sustainable, inclusive economy with equality of outcomes for all.
- A Scotland where we eat well, have a healthy weight and are physically active.
AHPs have the potential to make an enormous contribution to these six priorities and many AHPs in Scotland are already engaged or are leading work that will positively impact on population health. However, there is much more to be done to support AHPs to understand how a population health approach can be built into their practice, the role they can play in promoting the wellbeing of communities and how they can contribute to reducing health inequalities. My take home message? This is everyone’s business therefore needs to be embedded in AHP practice and not viewed as an add-on for those who fancy it!
If you are interested in finding out more about this work or connecting with the AHP representing your Board, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Ruth Campbell is Consultant Dietitian in Public Health Nutrition at NHS Ayrshire & Arran
Follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthCampbellPHN