Public Health Planning

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Part 5 of the Public Health Act 2016 requires the preparation of two types of public health plans:

  1. State public health plan prepared by the Chief Health Officer and
  2. Local public health plan prepared by each local government.

Part 5 of the Public Health Act will not come into effect until stage 5 of implementation. Local governments are not required to produce their first local public health plan until two years after Part 5 is enacted.

Even though Part 5 of the Public Health Act will not come into effect for some years, many local governments advocated for public health planning and are producing public health plans in anticipation for the commencement of Part 5. WA Health is supportive of this initiative and encourages local governments to commence the process of developing their local public health plan if they wish to do so.

WA Health has prepared the Public Health Planning Guide for Local Government (PDF 3MB) to support enforcement agencies to prepare a local public health plan that meets the requirements of Part 5 of the Public Health Act.

Information sessions will be provided closer to stage 5 of implementation, when Part 5 of the Public Health Act will be proclaimed. 

To provide feedback on the guide, or for further inquiries, please email publichealthact@health.wa.gov.au

To receive updates on the Public Health Act as the legislation is progressively rolled out over the next 4 years please subscribe to the environmental health email updates (external site).
What is the purpose of public health planning?

Both the State Department of Health and local governments have a long-standing statutory responsibility for public health and environmental health protection. The requirement for public health planning strengthens the need to better plan for public health and wellbeing by both tiers of government. It will also help to align the public health objectives and policy priorities of government more effectively, with the ultimate aim of making sure State and local governments are working in unison and directing resources targeting areas of greater public health need.

Public health planning is about taking a proactive approach to preventative health, with the focus being on achieving long-term public health outcomes through the planning process.

Public health planning enables governments to:

  • Regularly assess the public health needs of the community
  • Articulate the public health vision, objectives and policy priorities for the community
  • Allocate resources to achieve health and wellbeing priorities and
  • Monitor and report progress.

The intention is to support local governments to assess and ensure that their resources are used in the most appropriate and efficient way to address the public health needs of their local population rather than increase the number of services provided.

What is the purpose of the State Plan?

The Chief Health Officer must prepare and maintain a public health plan that applies to the whole of the State. The aim of the State Plan is to ensure that the State’s focus and efforts:

  • meet the public health needs of the State
  • are evidence based
  • establish objectives and policy priorities for the promotion and protection of public health and the development and delivery of relevant services
  • define how the objectives and policy priorities are to be achieved and
  • include a strategic framework for the identification, evaluation and 
  • management of risks relating to public health in the State

The Chief Health Officer has released the First Interim State Public Health Plan for public consultation. This document outlines the public health objectives and policy priorities for WA, until Part 5 of the Public Health Act is enacted.

What is the purpose of a Local Plan?

Each local government is required to produce a public health plan that applies to its local district. 

A Local plan must be consistent with the State public health plan whilst responding to local public health risks. The plan must:

  • identify the public health needs of the local government district 
  • include an examination of data relating to health status and health determinants in the local government district
  • establish objectives and policy priorities for the promotion and protection of public health in the local government district
  • describe the development and delivery of public health services in the local government district and
  • include a report on the local government’s performance of its functions under the Act
What is meant by being consistent with the State Plan?

The State Public Health Plan will identify the objectives and policy priorities for the State, and thereby provide a framework for local government to consider and adapt as necessary to reflect the particular risks prevailing in its district.

The Local Public Health Plan must be consistent with the State Public Health Plan. Being “consistent” means that local governments should:

  • consider the objectives and policy priorities outlined in the State Public Health Plan to determine their relevance to the local district
  • determine what services, programmes and projects are or could be implemented at the local level to promote, improve and protect people, related to the objectives and policy priorities identified in the State Public Health Plan, that are applicable to the local district.

In some cases, the objectives and policy priorities in the State Public Health Plan may not be relevant. Local Governments are entitled to come to a decision that does not necessarily reflect one or more of the objectives and policy priorities in the State Public Health Plan, provided that local governments have considered them and are able to demonstrate how their conclusion was reached.

Given the specific requirement to consider the State Public Health Plan, it is recommended that the reasons for making decisions (which could be subject to review or public scrutiny) are clear and able to be demonstrated. In particular, decision makers should be able to show that the local government considered the various objectives and policy priorities where relevant, and outline reasons for the decision not to include in the Local Public Health Plan e.g. why they may not be applicable to the local district.  

When deciding on what objectives and policy priorities are applicable to the local district, information collected as part of section 45(4), which involves reviewing the health status and health determinants of the local district, will be relevant when deciding what priorities are applicable.

When will the first State Plan be produced?

Part 5 of the Act provides for public health planning and will not come into effect until stage 5 of implementation. 

Once Part 5 is in effect the Chief Health Officer has one year to produce the first State Plan.

As an interim measure, the Chief Health Officer has released the First Interim State Public Health Plan.

When must the first Local Plan be produced?

Part 5 of the Act provides for public health planning and will not come into effect until stage 5 of implementation. 

Once Part 5 is in effect each local government has two years to produce the first Local Plan.

What should a Local Plan look like?

There is no specific planning process that must be followed when developing a public health plan, or a one size fits all template. This ensures that local government is provided the flexibility and autonomy needed to develop individualise plans.

Local government can utilise any method that suits their needs in order to achieve the requirements of the Act.

Will public health plans impose onerous obligations on local government?

To minimise the number of separate planning processes required of local government, Local Plans may be integrated with the existing planning processes under the Local Government Act 1995

To support the development of the plans, the Department of Local Government and Communities (external site)  has developed the Local Government Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework (external site) and a range of other tools and resources.

The Department of Health encourages local government to incorporate public health planning using this established framework.

What are the key elements of a Local Plan?

A public health plan is essentially a:

  1. Health profile: The background evidence which provides an analysis of the health status and health determinants of the population (either at a state-wide or a local district level) and provides an overview of the public health needs of the community.
  2. The strategic plan: Outlines the objectives and policy priorities that focus on achieving positive public health outcomes through the promotion, improvement and protection of public health and the development and delivery of public health services.

The structure of any plan should be easy to follow and the strategy should be written in clear, concise and plain English. The main elements of a public health plan may include:

  • Vision (the dream): The vision statement should communicate what the ideal conditions for public health and wellbeing are for the community – how things would look if the priorities were perfectly addressed. The vision statement should inspire everyone in the community to aspire to an ideal.

    The vision should be:

  • Understood by everyone
  • Broad enough to capture all aspects of health and wellbeing
  • Easy to communicate
  • Mission (the what and why): The mission statement should inspire people to act. It should generally describe what a local government will do and why to contribute to the realisation of the vision. A mission statement should be more action-oriented than the vision statement. A mission statement can be a compass to guide decision making.
  • Health status and health determinants profile: A local government district community health profile is essentially a report that documents everything that is known about the health status and health determinants of a local district. The report can look at the data relevant to a local district and compare to state and national averages wherever possible.
  • Set the public health goals or priorities: Establish overarching objectives based on the priority public health risks identified for the community. A local government may have various objectives as a result of the examination of its community health profile.
  • Establish policy priorities: A number of policy priorities are required for each of the objectives that outline how the objectives will be achieved.
  • Construct the action plan (the how, by who, by when): The action plan describes in detail exactly how the objectives will be achieved. Strategies and actions must be specific, achievable and realistic. Each action should be allocated to an individual or team, and have specific timeframes that the action is to be completed.
Who is responsible for developing the Local Plan?

The task of whom is responsible for developing the plan is at the discretion of each local government. The Public Health Act does not specify any specific skills or qualifications that are needed to develop the plan.

Local governments can allocate the task of developing the Local Plan to any person. This may include:

  • Allocating the task to existing staff such as authorised officers or any other person with the skills and knowledge of public health and strategic planning
  • Establish a steering committee of relevant stakeholders to guide the process. This could include councillors, with other representatives from the community, business and government agencies to provide input as required or
  • Engaging a consultant.
Is local government required to report on their Local Plans?

Section 47 of the Act provides the power for the Chief Health Officer to request a copy of a local government’s public health plan. In the event that a local government fails to undertake public health planning, consideration will be given to exercising the power under section 47.

Is a Local Plan a public document?

Yes. A local government must make its local public health plan publicly available without charge.

How often does the plan need to be replaced?

The Local Plan must be replaced at the end of the period of 5 years after it was prepared, unless replaced sooner.

Resources and training

public health planning guideWA Health has prepared the Public Health Planning Guide for Local Government (PDF 3MB) to support enforcement agencies to prepare a local public health plan that meets the requirements of Part 5 of the Public Health Act. 

This Guide will support the proclamation of Part 5 of the Act during stage 5 of implementation.

Information sessions will not be organised until closer to Part 5 of the Act coming into effect.

Public Health Planning Tools

WA Health Guide

Public Health Planning Tools

Health status and social determinants

Example WA local public health plans

Useful data sources