Occupational Therapy: Health promotion

a subject guide to assist students and staff with Occupational Therapy resources and information

What is Public Health and how health promotion assists in planning

Public Health  as defined by the World Health Organization "refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Its activities aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and focus on entire populations, not on individual patients or diseases." (WHO, 2016)

How public health programs influence healthcare:

  • Evaluate and assess what services are currently available and the current health care system's needs
  • Determine requirements of the public and those of the health professionals to see if they align
  • Outline the most appropriate services for a population and information for health care planning
  • Promote health issues to the public, health professionals and other stakeholders.

Getting started on health promotion assignments

  1. Identify a population and/or health issue:

    1. Sometimes you will be given an issue or population group to focus on, at other times you need to choose one yourself. If choosing your own topic consider:

      1. Where do you want to work in the future? If you’re interested in paediatrics, choose an issue that affects children. If you’re in a competitive field, knowledge of Aboriginal health could be a plus…

  2. Look for policy, programs and strategies

    1. See what is being done to address this issue

      1. Some programs will focus on prevention, others on harm reduction

      2. Government policy will often set broad goals and direct funding priorities, but won’t necessarily include specific strategies

      3. Smaller organisations might have programs targeted to specific populations

    2. Look for 3-4 different approaches to your health issue or population - it’s fine if these are from different countries, or target only the issue or the population (but not both).  

    3. Looking at different approaches helps you more easily identify the differences, strengths and weaknesses in each.

  3. Find the facts:

    1. Once you’ve got a health issue, population group and approach figured out, look for the statistics that you need to highlight the issue:

      1. Demographics - what is the population of a certain area or group?

      2. Available services - what is already in place for your population? Are they using it? Is usage increasing or decreasing?

      3. Epidemiology - what are the incidence rates within your population? (Do you need to compare it to other populations? You’ll need their stats too!)

      4. Pathophysiology - often you need to describe how the health issue affects people physically (as well as in other ways)

  4. Look for evidence of effectiveness:

    1. What barriers are identified for your population group/health issue?

    2. What facilitators have been found to help? Look for evidence of effectiveness with your population OR health issue, not necessarily both together.

Statistics to determine the demographics of a population

Australian Bureau of Statistics  - browse by heading (Economy, People, Health) or search the site

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare -  look in data and data by subject 

Department of Environment Land Water and Planning - local government information by council area (Victoria has 79 council areas)

Grey literature - sources of information from non-scholarly sources - this is acceptable provided these sources are reputable (ie/ from a government agency or organization) and backed up with evidence from the scholarly literature (ie/ databases) - see the next tab.

Health.Vic -  Victorian data on hospital and health services, health alerts and other information

My.hospital - performance information on over 1000 Australian hospitals (public and private)

World Health Organization - international health statistics 

Australian Government - Health Promotion - Health promotions and initiatives in Australia

also try a general internet search using your topic and "health promotion"

It is important to back up your arguments with evidence from the scholarly literature.

Some databases will have a subject heading of "Health promotion" which has the scope note:

"The process of fostering awareness, influencing attitudes, and identifying alternatives so that individuals can make informed choices and change their behavior to achieve an optimum level of physical and mental health and improve their physical and social environment."

Combine this subject heading with your topic to narrow down the results.

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