'Allied Health' - who and what - an internal dilemma and a possible solution
Lowe, SE and Adams, R and O'Kane, A, 'Allied Health' - who and what - an internal dilemma and a possible solution, Inaugural National Allied Health Conference Proceedings, 12-13 November 2008, Auckland, New Zealand (2009) [Conference Extract]
The term "allied health (AH)" is a political construct that drives workforce planning and policy internationally. However, the meaning of the term and the disciplines included/excluded varies immensely.
The Australian Health Workforce Advisory Committee (AHWAC) identified:
"In Australia, there is no clear and consistent agreement on what comprises the allied health workforce at either the stakeholder, jurisdictional or national level. There is also an array of different interpretations of the occupations that comprise the allied health workforce."(2006)
The Productivity Commission Australian Health Workforce research paper (2006) discusses AH workforce issues but does not offer a clear definition as to the professions included. Its recommendations will result in significant changes that, if implemented, have major ramifications for the allied health workforce. But which ones?
A nationally recognised and accepted definition of "AH" is required. This will enable planning and policy to be targeted. Such a definition will be difficult to achieve as health policy which targets AH services has already been implemented. To be included means access to funding. To be excluded may entail a loss of funding. However the current situation of ambiguity and differences across programs and jurisdictions cannot continue. As workforce reform occurs the situation has the potential to become increasingly complex. The authors believe that this debate is relevant for AHPs internationally
This paper proposes that the AHP workforce be categorized. The categories comprise the medical, nursing, allied health, oral health, public health, clinical support, complimentary, technical, vocationally trained and administrative professions. It is recommended that the jurisdictions work with health professional associations to adopt such categorization of the health workforce in order to create clarity when developing health policy and planning which is able to target particular categories of health professional.