Hands on health: Diversifying the healthcare workforce to improve the long-term health of disadvantaged communities

Dr Shan Bergin1

1Monash Health, Melbourne, Australia




  1. Improve education outcomes and employment

opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

  1. Contribute to diversifying the healthcare workforce.
  2. Improve the long term health of disadvantaged




An analysis of relative disadvantage and geographical proximity are used to identify potential education and health partners.  Education partners, in collaboration with Hands on Health, identify student participants with an interest in a health career and facing significant barriers to achieving optimal education and employment outcomes.  Student participants are provided with interactive work experience opportunities and ongoing support services including subject selection, study techniques and exam preparation.



In 2016, 123 students and 16 schools participated; a fivefold increase since its inception in 2011. Qualitative data from students, schools and healthcare staff is overwhelmingly positive with the program perceived to be of substantial benefit.  Whilst longitudinal data is required to measure impact on workforce diversity and the health profile of local communities, Monash University reports a 60% increase in enrolments from schools involved in Hands on Health.


Significance of the findings to Allied Health:

In an environment where the ‘patient-provider’ relationship is key to ensuring provision of quality and effective care, it is important that the healthcare workforce, including the Allied Health workforce, is reflective of the demographic it serves.  In the longer term, students involved in Hands on Health will ensure the health system is comprised of staff of all ages, ethnicities, cultural beliefs and backgrounds and is better positioned to deliver accessible, responsive care that improves health equity, and improves health outcomes.