Aims: First proposed in the 2004 White Paper Choosing Health, health trainers are a new addition to the public health workforce. Health trainers are recruited from local communities and provide support to enable individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles. The aim of this paper is to examine the emerging role of the health trainer in the context of one of the twelve early adopter programmes. The paper describes the support and signposting model developed in Bradford.
Methods: An evaluation of the pilot scheme was undertaken using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The paper draws on two pieces of qualitative data from the evaluation. Two focus groups were held with 15 health trainers in their first months of practice. Telephone interviews were held with a sample of 16 key informants from community based placement organizations. Thematic analysis of the data was undertaken.
Results: The new health trainers were very clear about their role in listening and giving support. Clients presented with a diverse range of needs and often had complex problems. The health trainers perceived that a client-centred approach was of value but there were some issues about the boundaries of appropriate advice. Outreach and networking were considered important skills. In the telephone interviews, interviewees understood the health trainer role and identified potential benefits for service users. The significance of health trainers having local knowledge was highlighted, although some organizations were able to assist with networking. The health trainer programme was seen as an additional and distinct resource complementing existing provision.
Conclusion: The new role of health trainer is a significant development for the public health workforce. Health trainers can offer something quite distinctive and separate from professional advice, and there is potential to help individuals to access support and services in local communities. More research is needed on the relative value of different models of health trainer.