‘Yes, no problem,’ was my response when I was asked to write a blog for the Department of Health 'Health Improvement and Health Promoting Practitioner week of action’
A what? Eek, what had I signed up to!? What was I going to write about? What style was required? (Chatty? Serious? Professional? Story like? Bullet points?) And most importantly, would anyone be remotely interested in my thoughts, experiences and observations.
For the week of action there have been many witting and thought provoking blogs by my colleagues, http://bit.ly/1yICSY3. Indeed one colleague has, I feel, missed a calling to become a writer as their blogs are beautifully crafted like a true wordsmith.
Having only started my new role in the Department of Health as the Allied Health Professions Officer four months ago, I have embraced twitter (@alisonraw) and enjoy engaging /lurking in twitter chats (even hosting my first one in partnership with @physiotalk). I enjoy the virtual connections that are made with individuals from all differing walks of life, and sometimes luckily the virtual connections become a reality and you meet the person behind the avatar in real life! That really is special as the rapport and the connection is already in place and often can end up talking like old friends
Social Media blogs/webinars/twitter chats/audioboos/video clips have been a huge part of the ’Week of Action’ and have been promoted to ensure that everyone knows that they have a role as a health promoting practitioner. Articles and extracts have been printed in a whole host of journals, again targeting a far reaching audience to emphasise how important making every contact count is; those brief interventions that clinicians are privilege to have with individuals.
This flurry of activity in all forms of social media and printed press is very exciting, very instant and somewhat innovative. However, what I have found to be even more exciting, even more instant and even more innovative is the manner in which Allied Health Professionals have embraced the Public Health agenda. I have spent the last week visiting paramedics and dietitians, both passionate about the difference that their profession can make to individuals across the life course. Many clinicians do not consider themselves to be traditionally working within public health, but we all have a part to play. Each of the 12 Allied Health Professions contribute an enormous amount to all the key areas of public health, can you imagine what we can achieve collectively?
The difference that we make is fundamental and small achievable changes have a huge impact on population health. My visit to South East Coast Ambulance Service (covering Surrey, Sussex and Kent) highlighted the essential role that paramedics have with our most vulnerable in society. As I listened in to emergency calls in the control room being expertly answered by the ever patient, empathetic and professional Lucy, I was aware of the sheer volume of scared and panicky individuals who dial 999 for the ambulance service. Many due to issues relating to anxiety, loneliness and feeling unwell. Last month SECAmb received 75,000 calls, just over 49% of those calls required the individual being taken to hospital. Leaving around 43,000 calls have been dealt with either on the phone or by the paramedics when they arrived at location. Is this a key opportunity to briefly discuss smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, alcohol issues and signpost accordingly? Understandably many of the dreadfully tragic calls that paramedics respond to would not be appropriate to discuss ‘eating healthily’, I never did find out what happened to the situation that came up on the call screen as ‘cat Vs tree’
I was lucky to spend an afternoon with public health dietician in Central London, a profession who arguably have always been working within the public health arena. I attended a dietician led ‘cook and taste’ group where individuals were referred from various sources or self referred. The support offered within the group for each other was remarkable, as the attendees bonded over making a low cost and healthy Thai chicken noodle salad. A further blog will follow on the team’s involvement with environmental health officers and market traders to promote healthier options, which has demonstrated clear measurable outcomes.
Ooops! Did I just commit to writing another blog? I must have found my first attempt not so painful, I hope you enjoyed reading it?
A blog ‘a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web… many provide commentary on a particular subject, others function as more personal online diaries’
Alison Raw is the Professional Officer AHP lead at the Department of Health