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1.  Working in disadvantaged communities: What additional competencies do we need? 
Background
Residents of socioeconomically disadvantaged locations are more likely to have poor health than residents of socioeconomically advantaged locations and this has been comprehensively mapped in Australian cities. These inequalities present a challenge for the public health workers based in or responsible for improving the health of people living in disadvantaged localities. The purpose of this study was to develop a generic workforce needs assessment tool and to use it to identify the competencies needed by the public health workforce to work effectively in disadvantaged communities.
Methods
A two-step mixed method process was used to identify the workforce needs. In step 1 a generic workforce needs assessment tool was developed and applied in three NSW Area Health Services using focus groups, key stakeholder interviews and a staff survey. In step 2 the findings of this needs assessment process were mapped against the existing National Health Training Package (HLT07) competencies, gaps were identified, additional competencies described and modules of training developed to fill identified gaps.
Results
There was a high level of agreement among the AHS staff on the nature of the problems to be addressed but less confidence indentifying the work to be done. Processes for needs assessments, community consultations and adapting mainstream programs to local needs were frequently mentioned as points of intervention. Recruiting and retaining experienced staff to work in these communities and ensuring their safety were major concerns. Workforce skill development needs were seen in two ways: higher order planning/epidemiological skills and more effective working relationships with communities and other sectors. Organisational barriers to effective practice were high levels of annual compulsory training, balancing state and national priorities with local needs and giving equal attention to the population groups that are easy to reach and to those that are difficult to engage. A number of additional competency areas were identified and three training modules developed.
Conclusion
The generic workforce needs assessment tool was easy to use and interpret. It appears that the public health workforce involved in this study has a high level of understanding of the relationship between the social determinants and health. However there is a skill gap in identifying and undertaking effective intervention.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-6-10
PMCID: PMC2684114  PMID: 19393091
2.  Analysing NSW state policy for child obesity prevention: strategic policy versus practical action 
Background
There is increasing worldwide recognition of the need for government policies to address the recent increases in the incidence and prevalence of childhood obesity. The complexity and inter-relatedness of the determinants of obesity pose a genuine policy challenge, both scientifically and politically. This study examines the characteristics of one of the early policy responses, the NSW Government's Prevention of Obesity in Children and Young People: NSW Government Action Plan 2003–2007 (GAP), as a case study, assessing it in terms of its content and capacity for implementation.
Results
This policy was designed as an initial set of practical actions spanning five government sectors. Most of the policy actions fitted with existing implementation systems within NSW government, and reflected an incremental approach to policy formulation and implementation.
Conclusion
As a case study, the NSW Government Action Plan illustrates that childhood obesity policy development and implementation are at an early stage. This policy, while limited, may have built sufficient commitment and support to create momentum for more strategic policy in the future. A more sophisticated, comprehensive and strategic policy which can also be widely implemented and evaluated should now be built on this base.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-4-22
PMCID: PMC2104535  PMID: 17935632
3.  In what ways does the mandatory nature of Victoria's municipal public health planning framework impact on the planning process and outcomes? 
Background
Systems for planning are a critical component of the infrastructure for public health. Both in Australia and internationally there is growing interest in how planning processes might best be strengthened to improve health outcomes for communities. In Australia the delivery of public health varies across states, and mandated municipal public health planning is being introduced or considered in a number of jurisdictions. In 1988 the Victorian State government enacted legislation that made it mandatory for each local government to produce a Municipal Public Health Plan, offering us a 20-year experience to consider.
Results
In-depth interviews were undertaken with those involved in public health planning at the local government level, as part of a larger study on local public health infrastructure and capacity. From these interviews four significant themes emerge. Firstly, there is general agreement that the Victorian framework of mandatory public health planning has led to improvements in systems for planning. However, there is some debate about the degree of that improvement. Secondly, there is considerable variation in the way in which councils approach planning and the priority they attach to the process. Thirdly, there is concern that the focus is on producing a plan rather than on implementing the plan. Finally, some tension over priorities is evident. Those responsible for developing Municipal Public Health Plans express frustration over the difficulty of having issues they believe are important addressed through the MPHP process.
Conclusion
There are criticisms of Victoria's system for public health planning at the local government level. Some of these issues may be specific to the arrangement in Victoria, others are problems encountered in public health planning generally. In Victoria where the delivery structure for public health is diverse, a system of mandatory planning has created a minimum standard. The implementation of the framework was slow and factors in the broader political environment had a significant impact. Work done in recent years to support the process appears to have led to improvements. There are lessons for other states as they embark upon mandated public health plans.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-4-4
PMCID: PMC1851012  PMID: 17376248

Results 1-3 (3)