Communities of Practice – working together in public health

Della Duric

Ricky Gelman

Our next student blog has been contributed by – Deakin Master of Dietetics students Della Duric and Ricky Gelman. Della and Ricky recently completed their public health and community dietetics placement with the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS) at Victorian division of Nutrition Australia.

 Our Experience

Through our Master of Dietetics at Deakin University, we were lucky enough to engage with HEAS, in partnership with Nutrition Australia. Our placement was largely focused on a research project which aimed to evaluate the use of communities of practice. A Community of Practice is a collection of individuals that work together and build professional relationships by discussing ideas, concerns and participating in activities based on their similar areas of interest.  In particular, we aimed to build the capacity of health promoters in sport and recreation centres to support the implementation of the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines.

We are both passionate about working in public health nutrition, so were thrilled at the opportunity to work with a leading organisation such as HEAS, and to gain insight into the amazing work that they do. It was also very rewarding to work on a project that we knew would benefit HEAS and inform their conduct of future communities of practice. Over the course of our seven-week placement, our Nutrition Australia supervisor and the HEAS team provided varied and diverse experiences for us to engage in. These included:

  • Involvement in planning and conducting a community of practice with health promoters working in sport and recreation centres. This experience provided us the opportunity to work with external stakeholders and conduct interviews that provided rich data used to evaluate the best practice for conducting communities of practice.
  • Attending the Victorian Healthy Eating Enterprise where the HEAS team presented on initiatives designed to improve the health and wellbeing of Victorians via the provision of healthy food choices. It was a great opportunity for us to see the HEAS team promoting their work and collaborating with other key stakeholders in nutrition, dietetics and health promotion
  • Observation of numerous stakeholder meetings that provided great insight into the support provided by HEAS to health promoters during various phases of Healthy Choices implementation.

Through the completion of our placement project and experiences gained from collaborating with various HEAS team members, we were able to develop numerous skills that can be applied to our future practice. These include: 

  • Communication and collaboration with external stakeholders
  • Written communication and report writing skills
  • Planning of agendas
  • Development of evaluation tools via the formulation of survey and interview questions relevant to our placement project goal
  • Interview skills

Additionally, working with the HEAS team provided us valuable insight into the barriers faced by health promoters in the implementation of Healthy Choices guidelines in the sport and recreation space, and the support offered by HEAS to help address these barriers.

Our placement experience working with HEAS over the past seven weeks has been fantastic. The team were incredibly welcoming and created an environment that ensured we felt comfortable and supported. Our placement supervisor and the fellow HEAS team members were always available to offer feedback and provide guidance when needed. Overall, our placement provided us with a diverse range of experiences that offered invaluable insight into public health nutrition, specifically policy and guideline implementation. We are sure that anyone lucky enough to undertake placement with the HEAS team will take away as much as we did from the experience. 

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