Meabh McGuinness is an IUHPE Registered Health Promotion Practitioner working as an Education Project Manager in the HSE. In this profile piece, Meabh gives us some insight into her career and what drives her passion for health promotion.
What inspired you towards a career in health promotion?
I studied nutrition originally, and that left me thinking about the gap between knowledge and behaviour. So much was known about nutrition but still people found it hard to eat healthily. My first job was in BreastCheck, and I was learning a lot about the reasons people attend and don’t attend for screening, and that made me even more curious about health promotion, so I started a postgraduate diploma in Health Promotion from NUIG in 2002.
What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?
I’m working on the HSE National Education Programme as a project manager. There is no typical day! My job involves co-ordinating and supporting our work in schools across the country. The Department of Education has just launched a new Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice, this means every school will have a plan for Wellbeing by 2023, this is great news as it means that wellbeing is seen as central to the Department of Education’s mission and goals. It means we will have to change some of our programmes and projects to support this and align with this new policy, so at the moment we are planning for this change.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in a career in health promotion?
Be open minded when you are looking for a job, a job may not have ‘health promotion’ in the title but all the skills that are needed for the job might be health promotion skills. Also consider volunteering to get experience if you can, to build up your experience. When we interview placement students and I am always impressed with the great experience that comes from volunteering, like communication skills and event management etc.
What does AHPI membership mean for you?
Having an association gives us a voice so that we can advocate for good practice and evidence based approaches to health promotion in every sector. Also it gives me a chance to network and meet other people working in health promotion and to keep up to date on research, events and training opportunities; it is good to part of a network outside of my job role. I went to a great session on Leadership organised by the AHPI, it great to have CPD designed especially for Health Promotion Practitioners.
What does being a IUHPE Registered Health Promotion Practitioner mean for you?
It means that my skills are recognised, and that health promotion is recognised as a profession. I hope that Registered Practitioners are seen as the most qualified people to do health promotion work, and that this leads to it being a requirement in recruitment for health promotion roles in the future.
What do you find the most challenging about working in health promotion?
The lack of understanding about health promotion which leads to a desire for ‘quick results’ and ‘quick wins’. Sometimes the quality of the work can be compromised by a desire to have something that can be ‘reported on’ and it might not always be in line with best practice.
What is your proudest moment working on ….
Working on Health Promoting Schools I was talking to a group of pupils who had been on a health promoting school committee, I asked them what the best bit about being on the committee was and they said ‘getting to pick the paint colours for the yard’. They hadn’t been involved in decisions like that before and now they are, it’s a simple thing but it has a big impact. Student voice is strongly advocated for in the Department of Education Wellbeing Policy, it’s great to think that this approach of involving pupils in Wellbeing Promotion is written in DES policy now.