In This Article Health Promotion Workforce Capacity

  • Introduction

Public Health Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
Margaret M. Barry, Barbara Battel-Kirk, Colette Dempsey
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0107


A skilled workforce is critical to delivering on the core values, principles, political vision, and strategic objectives of health promotion as outlined in World Health Organization (WHO) directives, national policies, and international agreements. Workforce capacity development is, therefore, essential to the sustainability and future development of health promotion and is critical to the effective translation of policy and research into effective practice. The health promotion workforce is diverse in terms of qualifications, level of experience, disciplinary backgrounds, levels of training, and type of practices, and it encompasses a broad range of people and agencies who work to promote population health. In some cases, the job title “Health Promotion” may not be used; however, the defining features of this multidisciplinary field of practice are based on the core concepts and principles of health promotion as defined in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (World Health Organization, 1986). The emergence of a specialized health promotion workforce is relatively recent and still lacks a clear occupational identity in many countries. The evolving and diverse nature of the workforce underscores the importance of clearly articulating the unique contributions of health promotion to population health improvement and to identifying the specific knowledge and competencies that underpin health promotion and that make it a distinctive area of practice. The health promotion workforce includes both specialists, who provide leadership in the development and implementation of policy and practice across a range of settings, and a wider workforce, who are drawn from across different sectors such as health, education, employment, and community and whose work incorporates a health promotion perspective. This article focuses primarily on the literature regarding those within the health promotion workforce who are dedicated specialists with relevant education and training. Specific areas of health promotion workforce capacity development, such as competency-based approaches professional standards and quality assurance of the health promotion workforce through accreditation are included. Public health and health education workforce capacity sources that identify health promotion as a core function or which embrace its key principles and concepts are also covered.

General Overviews

Capacity development has been defined in the health promotion literature as: “the development of knowledge, skills, commitment, structures, systems and leadership to enable effective health promotion. It involves actions to improve health at three levels: the advancement of knowledge and skills among practitioners, the expansion of support and infrastructure for health promotion in organizations, and the development of cohesiveness and partnerships for health in communities” (Smith, et al. 2006, cited under Conceptual Models and Frameworks, p. 341). This section includes published papers and strategy documents from global agencies and professional organizations such the World Health Organization and the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE), which make reference to health promotion workforce development as part of the broader capacity development agenda. These sources are included to contextualize the emerging literature on workforce capacity in this field. Earlier references to the need for capacity workforce development are highlighted in Wise 2003 and Barry 2008. Allegrante, et al. 2009 and Barry, et al. 2009 present the Galway Conference Consensus Statement (GCS) on domains of core competency, standards, and quality assurance for health promotion globally. The GCS is a seminal document in advancing global consensus on competency-based approaches to workforce development. A number of background papers and commentaries associated with this conference (e.g., Battel-Kirk, et al. 2009; Howze, et al. 2009) are also included. A follow-up article, Allegrante, et al. 2012, tracks the progress made since the GCS was published, with particular reference to developments in the United States and Europe. An innovative pan-European competency framework presented in Barry, et al. 2012 is based on the GCS.

  • Allegrante, J. P., M. M. Barry, C. O. Airhihenbuwa, et al. 2009. Domains of core competency, standards, and quality assurance for building global capacity in health promotion: The Galway Consensus Conference Statement. Health Education & Behavior 36.3: 476–482.

    DOI: 10.1177/1090198109333950E-mail Citation »

    Reports on the outcomes of the Galway Consensus Conference, which aimed to promote international collaboration on competency approaches to health promotion and health education as the basis for workforce capacity development and quality assurance for practice and education and training.

  • Allegrante, J. P., M. M. Barry, M. E. Auld, and M. C. Lamarre. 2012. Galway revisited: Tracking global progress in core competencies and quality assurance for health education and health promotion. Health Education & Behavior 39.6: 643–647.

    DOI: 10.1177/1090198112465089E-mail Citation »

    Provides an update on progress on developing competency-based approaches and quality assurance for workforce capacity development in health promotion since the Galway Consensus Statement was published in 2009.

  • Barry, M. M. 2008. Capacity building for the future of health promotion. Global Health 15.4: 56–58.

    E-mail Citation »

    Outlines the work plan of the IUHPE Global Vice President for Capacity Building, Education and Training over the period 2007 to 2010. This plan highlights the need for a trained and competent health promotion workforce with two areas prioritized for action: workforce development in countries with identified capacity needs and the development of international collaboration on core competencies for health promotion practice, education, and training.

  • Barry, M. M., J. P. Allegrante, M. C. Lamarre, M. E. Auld, and A. Taub. 2009. The Galway Consensus Conference: International collaboration on the development of core competencies for health promotion and health education. Global Health Promotion 16.2: 5–11.

    DOI: 10.1177/1757975909104097E-mail Citation »

    Outlines the purpose of the Galway Consensus Conference and its outcomes in terms of strengthening global exchange, collaboration, and common approaches to capacity building and workforce development. The Galway Consensus Statement outlines the core values and principles and common definitions as well as the eight core domains of competency agreed at the meeting. Available online by purchase or subscription.

  • Barry, M. M., B. Battel-Kirk, and C. Dempsey. 2012. The CompHP core competencies framework for health promotion in Europe. Health Education & Behavior 39.6: 648–662.

    DOI: 10.1177/1090198112465620E-mail Citation »

    Describes the CompHP Core Competencies Framework for Health Promotion in Europe that forms a basis for workforce development and quality assurance for practice, education, and training. Available online by subscription or purchase.

  • Battel-Kirk, B., M. M. Barry, A. Taub, and L. Lysoby. 2009. A review of the international literature on health promotion competencies: Identifying frameworks and core competencies. Global Health Promotion 16.2: 12–20.

    DOI: 10.1177/1757975909104100E-mail Citation »

    Reviews the international literature on competencies in health promotion, examines what had been developed to date, and critically reviews the methodologies used in their development. The paper also considers what can be learned from previous experience when establishing international core competencies and debates the advantages and disadvantages of the competency approach. Available online by subscription or purchase.

  • Howze, E. H., M. E. Auld, L. D. Woodhouse, J. Gershick, and W. C. Livingood. 2009. Building health promotion capacity in developing countries: Strategies from 60 years of experience in the United States. Health Education & Behavior 36.3: 464–475.

    DOI: 10.1177/1090198109333825E-mail Citation »

    This paper discusses how the experience acquired by the health promotion profession in the United States can be used to build health promotion capacity in developing countries. U.S. experience in the areas of accreditation and certification, research and publications, advocating for the profession, and advocating for Public Health policy is discussed.

  • Wise, M. 2003. Editorial: The health promotion workforce and workforce development. Health Promotion Journal of Australia 14.1: 4–5.

    E-mail Citation »

    Argues that a knowledgeable, skilled health promotion workforce is a key component of the capacity needed by nations to promote population health. The complexity of the health promotion workforce is discussed, including the diversity of backgrounds of those who makes up the workforce, what kinds of knowledge and skills they need, and what policy and organizational supports are required.

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