Meet IUHPE Registered Health Promotion Practitioner Aileen Scott, who is a Senior Health Promotion Officer- HSE Southeast. Here Aileen gives us some insight into her health promotion career and discusses why health promotion plays such an important role in all our lives.
What inspired you towards a career in health promotion?
My background is in nursing and midwifery and my first real work in health promotion, (though I don’t think I was aware of it at the time) was working in Manila city in a community development health project. This work involved training local healthcare workers who in turn were educating local people on basic health issues. It also involved working with other NGOs and liaising with government programmes. I found this work very fulfilling and could see at first hand the benefit that it had on those who I was working with. At its essence it was health promotion work, though we didn’t use the term and at the time in the early 1990s I wasn’t even aware of the Ottawa Charter! However, when I came home to Ireland two years later, I started to hear the term ‘health promotion’ and I began to investigate where I could find out more about health promotion. This led to me completing the higher diploma in health promotion in NUIG in 1998.
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, over the years, any given day could include delivering training to professionals, attending meetings, completing tasks from various meetings or working groups that I participate in.
I had been working on the National Making Every Contact Count programme for three years and I have recently returned to working in the HSE Health Promotion and Improvement department in the southeast. My work in the south east incorporates a more generic brief of supporting several initiatives in the area that have been set out as national priorities such as Tobacco Free Campus; Staff Health and Wellbeing along with the delivery of health promotion training programmes.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in a career in health promotion?
Sometimes when you are starting out it can be difficult to come across any health promotion jobs and to get your ‘foot-in’ so my ‘advice’ to anyone starting out is study the job specifications. There are lots of positions that have health promotion elements to them even though health promotion may not be in the job title.
What does AHPI membership mean for you?
Having an association gives its members a voice so that we can advocate for good practice and evidence based approaches to health promotion in every sector. It also helps me to feel part of something bigger, 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. I have been a member of the AHPI executive committee for the past number of years and this has given me a insight in to the workings of the association and the amount of work that goes on in the background so that things can 'just happen’!
What does being a IUHPE Registered Health Promotion Practitioner mean for you?
It is fantastic; at last we have a system and process in place that allows health promotion practitioners to be recognised nationally and internationally. Being a registered Health Promotion Practitioner is an acknowledgement that the skills and competencies that I have developed over my career are valued and recognised. I hope that in time this will be a requirement for all of us working in the field of health promotion.
What is your proudest moment working in Health Promotion?
This is a tough question…. the completion and launch of the National Making Every Contact Count Framework document which was a Health Behaviour Change Framework and Implementation Plan for Health professionals in the Irish Health Service. This national document sets out how health behaviour change interventions can be integrated into routine care by frontline healthcare professionals. The development of the framework was a huge undertaking by all involved and to see the end product was indeed a good day.
What do you find the most challenging about working in health promotion?
I think one of the biggest challenges facing any of us in health promotion is the danger that health promotion action gets reduced to focusing solely on individual lifestyle behaviours to the determent of action on the wider determinants of health.
You have been given a magic wand and are able to fix one problem (related to health/ health promotion), what would you pick?
Since I have a magic wand I would use it to work some real magic… changing people’s attitudes to enable them to see that by narrowing the health gap and creating a fairer society we will all benefit.