In our latest AHPI careers profile, meet the inspirational Rosemary Scott who works as a Health Promotion Officer with the HSE
What inspired you towards a career in health promotion?
My career has taken a ‘long and windy road’. At its core is a passion for empowering people to live a healthy and meaningful life - whether during my time as a nurse, a complimentary therapist or indeed a horticulturist. In the 90’s I worked as the first Smoking Cessation Officer in Beaumont Hospital. At the time smoking was still permitted on campus. It was then that I appreciated the need to look beyond the individual to the factors that influence choices people made in relation to their health and wellbeing. Studying health promotion in NUI Galway was the obvious next step. I have never regretted going down that road!
What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?
My experience has been that there is no typical day as a Health Promotion Officer - and I absolutely love that about the work. Over the years, any given day could include delivering training to professionals or volunteers, participating in a planning meeting to deliver on the many elements of a national awareness campaign, developing and reviewing publications or evaluating a piece of work. Evidence is an ever present factor, whether gathering evidence to support a particular approach to work or reviewing new evidence reported in the media and then discussing it with local and national radio and TV stations. One such interview posed an interesting question in relation to sun protection for cows… Definitely nothing boring about the job!
I recently started work as a Health Promotion and Improvement officer with the HSE in Community Healthcare East (South Dublin /East Wicklow). One of my responsibilities is coordinating Health Promoting Schools (HPS) activities in the area. Like any new piece of work, my priority is to familiarise myself with the ins and outs of the programme including the evidence supporting it. I have also been spending time talking with colleagues who have a depth of knowledge and understanding of the topic that I can definitely learn from. I have been getting out and about meeting with school teachers too and have been inspired by what they achieve while considering how I can further support them in relation to their HPS work.
My time in the National Youth Council of Ireland as Mental Health Promotion Officer gave me a particular interest in mental health and wellbeing. I am delighted to be able to continue working in this area in my new role with the HSE as I sit on the HP & I Mental Health Promotion Network (Dublin Mid-Leinster) and support the delivery of Minding Your Wellbeing training to HSE staff and Engage training to frontline workers who engage with men.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in a career in health promotion?
I can understand why people gravitate to work in health promotion because of a passion for a particular topic. This passion no doubt comes with a strong desire to create meaningful change. My advice is, at the start of your career; don’t get caught up in looking for the ‘perfect job’ that allows you to focus on your area of particular interest. Instead embrace what health promotion work is available, use it to develop skills and expertise in relation to the core competencies of health promotion. Then, when that ideal job comes along embrace it, adapt your skill set to meet the needs of the post and run with it to make a difference.
What does AHPI membership mean for you?
It is only in the last two years that I have become more involved in the AHPI as a member of the Executive Committee. I find it to be valuable work. There is scope to be creative in terms of how to progress the organisation, and indeed health promotion in Ireland. It also provides opportunities for networking and CPD which I value greatly. Long term I would like to see the organisation in a position where all people working in health promotion in Ireland see membership of the AHPI as important to them and a key support to them in their work.
What is your proudest working moment?
It is hard to miss that mental wellbeing is a hot topic at the moment, with young people highlighted as a particularly at risk group. We hear about very high levels of anxiety experienced by many as they navigate the changing world. The most valuable piece of work I have done to date relates to this situation. One of the issues identified by the youth sector during my time with the National Youth Council of Ireland was the lack of clarity in relation to where to go to find information and support for young people experiencing mental health difficulties. I developed an online signposting tool that gives information to youth workers, young people, parents and guardians on mental health supports, services and training programmes across the country. At last the information was in one place! The resource was extremely well received by the sector and I hope that they continue to experience it as useful.
You have been given a magic wand and are able to fix one health promotion challenge, what would you pick?
One of the topics covered during my time in NUIG that really resonated with me was the ‘Life Course’ approach to health. With that in mind I was delighted to hear Minister Zappone launch the ‘First 5’ strategy earlier this month. However, my magic wand would focus on those young children beyond the scope of the new strategy – young children in our primary schools with social, emotional and behavioural problems. These issues are making it difficult for them to benefit from participating in mainstream school and whose whole lives will potentially be compromised as a result. There are international programmes currently addressing this challenge – such as the Nurture Programme in the UK. I would gather a dedicated team to work on introducing a similar programme in this country.