The History of Allied Health Professions

allied health professions classroom

Allied health professions are those professions that deal with health care, and include many well-known non-nurse, non-physician roles. Among these professions are physical therapist, anesthesia technician, dental hygienist – and many, many more. Allied health professionals work in the healthcare system to provide diagnostic, technical, therapeutic, and direct patient care support.

The organization of International chief Health Professions Officers (ICHPO) defined allied health care professionals in 2012.

“Allied Health Professions are a distinct group of health professionals who apply their expertise to prevent disease transmission, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate people of all ages and all specialties. Together with a range of technical and support staff they may deliver direct patient care, rehabilitation, treatment, diagnostics and health improvement interventions to restore and maintain optimal physical, sensory, psychological, cognitive and social functions.”

History of Allied Health Professions

After World War II, the rise of public demand for health care combined with higher health care costs spurred the development of service delivery outside of hospitals. Scientific knowledge brought increasingly complex medical diagnostic and treatment procedures to the fore. Instead of hospitals, patients wanted to be seen and treated in physician offices, ambulatory medical clinics, and community-based mobile clinics.

This led to initiatives for strengthening health workforce capacity to deliver essential healthcare services in conjunction with nursing and physician care. In 1967, the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals (ASAHP) was established in response to the need for an association to relate to improving the quality and quantity of needed workforce in health professions.

The term “allied health” used in the deliberations for setting up the association was popularized at this time as well, and led to the passage of the Allied Health Professions Personnel Training Act. The act ratified the concept of unifying all the disciplines that comprise allied health into academic units.

Now and Into the Future

Allied health professions are estimated to make up as much as 60 percent of the U.S. healthcare workforce. The scope of allied health extends to the individual, the family, the community, and to public education. Allied health professionals:

  • Are concerned with the identification, diagnostic evaluation, and treatment of acute and chronic diseases and disorders
  • Provide dietary and nutrition services, rehabilitation services, and the management and operation of health systems
  • Apply scientific principles and evidence-based practice in order to optimize patient outcomes
  • Attend to the prevention of disease
  • Manage care for patients with chronic disease
  • Promote optimum function and health and the improvement of health-related quality of life
  • Projections of employment in allied health professions show shortages of qualified workers in many of these fields. For more information about allied health professions and schools with programs for careers in allied healthcare, see the ASHAP website.

    National Allied Health Professions Week, UT Health San Antonio
    Allied Health Professions, Wikipedia
    The Role of Simulation in Allied Health Education, White Paper, Bruce Kolder

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