Accreditation Framework significant development for Aotearoa

The recent approval of the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand (HPF) as a National Accreditation Organisation for Aotearoa New Zealand is a significant development for health promotion in this country.

A special feature of the approval from the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) is that we are the first country to have our Indigenous knowledge acknowledged and included under the IUHPE accreditation system.

Hauora asked HPF’s Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi about the process involved in applying for approval, the significance of having our Indigenous knowledge included under the system and why the accreditation process is so important for health promoters in NZ.

Mr Tu’itahi also discusses how long it will take to put the proper structures and processes in place before a starting date can be confirmed for the assessment and registration of health promoters.

HAUORA: What does this mean for Aotearoa New Zealand?

SIONE: This approval is based on the 2012 New Zealand Health Promotion Competencies and Standards that includes Te Tiriti O Waitangi and the socio-economic and political context of New Zealand as integral components.

This is a world-first, and IUHPE is keen to learn from it for the sake of other Indigenous peoples. IUHPE is a global professional non-governmental organisation dedicated to health promotion around the world for 70 years. HPF has been a member for almost 20 years.

In 2016 IUHPE elevated its accreditation framework to be a one global system for all health promoters and educational providers across the world.

While effective in addressing the determinants of health, and while present in most cultures, health promotion is a relatively recent development as an academic field and professional practice. 

Therefore, it is not regulated nor formally recognised. The IUHPE accreditation framework gives formal recognition to health promoters through an assessment process to ensure their competencies are current and of consistent, quality standard.  It also gives formal recognition to health promotion qualifications. 

The system is voluntary at this stage, but it is a great step in the right direction. In future, it is envisaged that health promoters can travel and work in countries where the system is established.

HAUORA: Can you please explain how the NAOs operate?

SIONE: National accreditation organisations (NAOs) administer the accreditation process in countries where they are established.

With IUHPE’s approval, HPF as an NAO will do this for New Zealand health promoters. In a globalised society with a very mobile health promotion workforce, it is very timely for NZ health promoters to be part of a global framework that is the only system for the whole world.

Under the same system, and as mentioned earlier, tertiary educational providers that teach health promotion can also have their qualifications formally recognised through a process managed by the IUHPE Global Accreditation Organisation (GAO).

GAO is the international body established by IUHPE to administer the whole accreditation framework, including approving, and guiding the establishment and operation of NAOs.

HAUORA: Why is this accreditation important for New Zealand health promoters?

SIONE: Currently in New Zealand, anyone can enter and practise health promotion. While this practice enhances the wide range of expertise required in health promotion – from policy and leadership to programme planning and community development, we need to ensure that health promoters are properly equipped with the right competencies – their knowledge, skills, and attributes, hence a formal system like the accreditation framework.

Also, we need to ensure that health promoters are systematically supported in their continuing professional development. This is not only for their ongoing advancement, but more importantly, for the wellbeing and safety of the people and communities they work with.

Of greater significance for New Zealand, IUHPE has accepted that components that are unique to our context and needs, such as Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our socio-political and cultural context, are a part of our accreditation framework.

We are the first country to have our Indigenous knowledge acknowledged and included under the IUHPE accreditation system. This reflects not only the hard work that HPF and its partners have been doing over the years, but it also affirms the effective contribution of Indigenous knowledge towards health promotion, planetary health, and human wellbeing.

IUHPE is very interested in our work on the accreditation because it can offer lessons on how to incorporate other knowledge systems into the framework, which is based on the Ottawa Charter and the European perspectives of wellbeing and health promotion.

HAUORA: So, when and how can health promoters be assessed and become part of the framework?

SIONE: In the next 12 months, HPF will develop an implementation plan with the proper structures and processes in place for the assessment and registration of health promoters. During the same time, we will promote greater awareness of the accreditation framework before we decide on the starting date of accrediting health promoters. The aim is to prepare health promoters and the health sector for this significant development.

Becoming an NAO is the latest milestone in our systematic and collaborative effort to broaden the dimensions of health promotion and advance its ongoing development for our country and the world.

(Banner picture, from left, Sione Tu’itahi with fellow newly elected members of IUHPE’s Executive Board at the global world health promotion conference in Rotorua, 2019)