It feels like we are in the midst of the health promotion apocalypse.  Programs that were once supposed to be significant investments to prevention have been suddenly cut.  Have zombies eaten the brains of politicians and decision makers who fail to see the benefits of investing in prevention?

Health promotion funding cuts

In the past few weeks with the announcement of the Federal budget we have seen programs cut with just a few week’s notice.  We are seeing evaluation planning and baseline data collection effectively wasted if follow up evaluation is not completed and disseminated.  Perhaps most devastatingly we are seeing dozens of passionate and skilled health promotion staff who were employed to work with community stakeholders and build capacity lose their jobs after establishing relationships and making plans for change.

Is the end nigh for health promotion?

I don’t believe so.  I have always been told from health promotion leaders that there are peaks and troughs in funding.  This is a very, very deep trough.  However we can expect that eventually there will be more money and political will invested in prevention and community development.  After all, those pesky non-communicable diseases aren’t going away any time soon.

Having been through this myself, this blog post aims to help provide tips for those staff who have lost their jobs from the recent health promotion apocalypse with tips adopted from real apocalypse survival advice (gotta love the internets).

  1. Store supplies.  No, I don’t mean steal the paper clips.  Do take the time to save and keep any pieces of work you were involved in that you may want to refer to down the track.  It’s always helpful to have examples of your work for job interviews.  Download or save your address book of colleagues and networks who you may wish to keep in touch with.
  2. Prepare an emergency kit.  For someone who is affected by budget cuts, this may simply be your inner circle of closest confidants and supports.  You need to have the people who will lift you higher on speed dial.
  3. Prepare for the long term.   Unfortunately you may need to consider your long term financial situation.  It may be tempting to consider a career change to something that is more secure.  While this is understandable, is further study (and more debt) really the answer, especially if it’s not an area you are truly motivated in?  Remember the huge amounts of transferable skills that health promoters have.  Look far and wide for job opportunities, with many health promoting jobs actually occurring outside of the health sector.
  4. Set up a communication system.  Perhaps book in regular coffees with your colleagues who are in the same boat to keep supporting one another.  Update your Linkedin profile and put yourself out there.  Keep your phone charged and check your inbox regularly. You never know there may be a better opportunity just around the corner.
  5.  Go on the defensive.  This may work when defending against actual zombies, but it can feel very risky in an unstable employment climate.  Many staff are told that they are not to do advocacy relating to their circumstances and funding cuts.  Whatever you decide, you should discuss the situation with your union.  There is safety in numbers.
  6.  Find other survivors.  Now is the time to join and be active with the Public Health Association and Health Promotion Association.  These organisations and its members should be your safe haven at this time.
  7.  Stay positive.  Easier said than done, so you should definitely use your employer’s counselling or employee assistance program or contact Lifeline.  Practice what you preach and seek help as required.

The health promotion sector needs to stay strong and unified.  Bring on the next ‘peak’ after this horrible trough.

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