One: The allied health collective

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This chapter examines the concept of allied health as a collective comprised of constituent professional groupings. Here, we describe the development of the allied health professions over the past century from the perspective of both the development of individual professions and the emergence of allied health under medical hegemony. Concepts that will be explored include considerations around a heterogeneous group of occupations attempting to work together to achieve a single professional project. We also examine the international health and social care organisational and policy contexts and the importance of the various regulatory frameworks.

The allied health professions are distinct from the medical and nursing professions in numerous ways. Collectively, allied health professions comprise approximately one third of the total health workforce. Due to large jurisdictional variations in inclusion in the allied health collective, as well as challenges in capturing allied health workforce data, the exact numbers and scale of the allied health professions vary widely and are difficult to determine accurately (Olson, 2012; Nancarrow et al, 2017).

Unlike medicine and nursing, which have strong brand recognition, large individual professional size, internal hierarchies, recognised specialisms and, importantly, a strong political voice, the allied health professions are a confederation of independent disciplines, each of varying size and focusing on a niche area of practice. Allied health professions face the dual challenge of negotiating their discrete professional territory within the boundaries of the allied health collective, while attempting to achieve recognition and a voice alongside their larger medical and nursing counterparts.

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