14 Oct What’s an Allied Health Professional?
There are almost 200,000 allied health professionals in Australia, delivering an estimated 200 million health services annually. This International Allied Health Professionals Day, we thought we’d celebrate these hard-working Aussies by highlighting the important role they play in our healthcare system.
Defining “Allied Health”
Let’s start by answering the question “what is an allied health professional?”. It’s not as simple as it may seem…
The term “allied health” is relatively new and there’s still no universally accepted definition of allied health professions. However, an allied health professional is generally someone who works in the health space, but it not part of the medical, dental or nursing professions. They are always university-qualified practitioners with specialised expertise in preventing, diagnosing and treating a range of conditions and illnesses.
Allied Health Professions Australia defines an allied health profession as one which has:
- a direct patient care role and may have application to broader public health outcomes
- a national professional organisation with a code of ethics/conduct and clearly defined membership requirements
- university health sciences courses (not medical, dental or nursing) at AFQ Level 7 or higher, accredited by their relevant national accreditation body
- clearly articulated national entry level competency standards and assessment procedures
- a defined core scope of practice
- robust and enforceable regulatory mechanisms.
Some examples of allied health professionals include exercise physiologists, osteopaths, optometrists and physiotherapists.
Where do Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) work?
You’ll find AHPs in lots of different environments. These include private clinics, hospitals, government organisations and community health services (just to name a few!). They often work within a multidisciplinary health team to provide specialised support for different patient needs.
Services offered by allied health professionals are generally claimable under schemes such as Medicare and can often be access through your private health insurance.
Introducing Exercise Physiologist…
Exercise Physiologists are allied health professionals who prescribe exercise as medicine. Exercise & Sports Science Australia defines Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) as “university qualified allied health professionals equipped with the knowledge, skills and competencies to design, deliver and evaluate safe and effective exercise interventions for people with acute, sub-acute or chronic medical conditions, injuries or disabilities.”
But is exercise really like medicine?
YES. Yes, it is.
The science is clear, and more and more research is highlighting the powerful effects of physical activity on both physical and mental health. Being active not only reduces your risk of developing chronic health conditions like heart disease, it can also help with treatment.
The key? Just like any medicine, it needs to be prescribed properly. This is especially true for those living with injuries or illnesses.
When should you see an exercise physiologist?
There’s plenty of reasons to see an exercise physiologist. The key difference between an exercise physiologists and other exercise professionals is that they uniquely trained to understand the complexities of prescribing exercise as a form of medicine (instead of just to get fitter or lose a couple of kgs, although they can certainly help with that too!).
AEPs work alongside other health professional, like doctors and physiotherapists, to ensure their patients receive the best and most appropriate care.
An exercise physiologist can help if you:
- Are living with heart disease
- Want to stay active during and after pregnancy
- Need a long-term injury recovery plan
- You’re recovering from cancer
- You want to manage diabetes
- You’re struggling with your mental health
- You want to stay active safely as you age
- And much, much more!
Finding an exercise physiologist
There’s over 5,000 Accredited Exercise Physiologist in Australia. Exercise & Sports Science Australia offers an easy search function to help you find a registered expert near you. Alternatively, you can chat to your GP and ask them for a referral.
Exercise Right would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all the allied health professionals around Australia. Keep up the incredible work!