What is allied health?

Australia’s 195,000 allied health professionals represent more than a quarter of the health workforce and deliver an estimated 200 million health services annually.

The allied health workforce is growing rapidly as demand grows across the aged care, mental health, disability and health sectors. Allied health professionals provide a broad range of diagnostic, technical, therapeutic and direct health services to improve the health and wellbeing of the consumers they support.

Defining allied health

The term allied health is relatively new and there is still no universally accepted definition of allied health professions. Instead different governments and government departments, health service providers, health insurers and education providers include different professions under the heading ‘allied health’. However, there is general agreement on some basic principles: allied health professionals are health professionals that are not part of the medical, dental or nursing professions. They are university qualified practitioners with specialised expertise in preventing, diagnosing and treating a range of conditions and illnesses. Allied health practitioners often work within a multidisciplinary health team to provide specialised support for different patient needs. More information about the work of individual professions can be found on our professions page.

Allied Health Professions Australia, in its role as the national voice for allied health in Australia, has defined an allied health profession in the following way.

An allied health profession is 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

Furthermore, the profession must consist of allied health professionals who:

  • are autonomous practitioners
  • practice in an evidence-based paradigm, using an internationally recognised body of knowledge to protect, restore and maintain optimal physical, sensory, psychological, cognitive, social and cultural function
  • may utilise or supervise assistants, technicians and support workers.

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