Open Access Debate

Toward core inter-professional health promotion competencies to address the non-communicable diseases and their risk factors through knowledge translation: Curriculum content assessment

Elizabeth Dean1*, Marilyn Moffat2, Margot Skinner3, Armele Dornelas de Andrade4, Hellen Myezwa5 and Anne Söderlund6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, V6T 1Z3 Vancouver, Canada

2 Department of Physical Therapy, New York University, New York, USA

3 School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

4 Departamento de Fisioterapia, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil

5 Department of Physiotherapy, Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa

6 School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Physiotherapy, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:717  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-717

Published: 14 July 2014

Abstract

Background

To increase the global impact of health promotion related to non-communicable diseases, health professionals need evidence-based core competencies in health assessment and lifestyle behavior change. Assessment of health promotion curricula by health professional programs is a first step. Such program assessment is a means of 1. demonstrating collective commitment across health professionals to prevent non-communicable diseases; 2. addressing the knowledge translation gap between what is known about non-communicable diseases and their risk factors consistent with ‘best’ practice; and, 3. establishing core health-based competencies in the entry-level curricula of established health professions.

Discussion

Consistent with the World Health Organization’s definition of health (i.e., physical, emotional and social wellbeing) and the Ottawa Charter, health promotion competencies are those that support health rather than reduce signs and symptoms primarily. A process algorithm to guide the implementation of health promotion competencies by health professionals is described. The algorithm outlines steps from the initial assessment of a patient’s/client’s health and the indications for health behavior change, to the determination of whether that health professional assumes primary responsibility for implementing health behavior change interventions or refers the patient/client to others.

An evidence-based template for assessment of the health promotion curriculum content of health professional education programs is outlined. It includes clinically-relevant behavior change theory; health assessment/examination tools; and health behavior change strategies/interventions that can be readily integrated into health professionals’ practices.

Summary

Assessment of the curricula in health professional education programs with respect to health promotion competencies is a compelling and potentially cost-effective initial means of preventing and reversing non-communicable diseases. Learning evidence-based health promotion competencies within an inter-professional context would help students maximize use of non-pharmacologic/non-surgical approaches and the contribution of each member of the health team. Such a unified approach would lead patients/clients to expect their health professionals to assess their health and lifestyle practices, and empower and support them in achieving lifelong health. Benefits of such curriculum assessment include a basis for reflection and discussion within and across health professional programs that could impact the epidemic of non-communicable diseases globally, through inter-professional education and evidence-based practice related to health promotion.

Keywords:
Health behaviors; Health professional entry-level curricula; Health promotion interventions; Lifestyle interventions; Lifestyle; Non-communicable diseases