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Towards integrated primary care

Health improvement practitioners (HIPs) are an emerging workforce in New Zealand. These roles are modelled on the behavioural health consultant roles in the United States. The HIP roles have been piloted in New Zealand, alongside other roles such as health coaches and dedicated mental health and addiction support workers working in an integrated primary mental health and addiction service approach.

The HIP role

A health improvement practitioner is part of a general practice team and is a registered mental health and addiction practitioner. This includes a registration under the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act (HPCA), dapaanz or the Social Work Registration Authority (SWRB).

Being based in a general practice, there are no barriers as to who can see a HIP as long as the person is enrolled in the practice. Appointments are available every day for 20-30 minutes. Half of the day is for booked appointments and half is for unbooked appointments to allow for same-day referrals.

Their work is population-based, meaning people do not require a previous or current mental health or addiction diagnosis to make an appointment. They work in a team approach with the general practice team and can also provide group sessions for a range of issues such as insomnia, gout, anxiety or cardiovascular disease.

General practice staff can do ‘warm handovers’ with the health improvement practitioner who can make a time to see a person on the same day they are visiting the practice.

Tara Mueller, a health improvement practitioner based at Bush Road Medical Centre in Whangarei talks about her role.

The HIP training

Training is designed both to develop the knowledge and skills for the health improvement practitioner role and to provide support to apply this in daily practice. For this to be successful there are three phases to the training.

Phase one – a four-day face to face training

Phase two – two days of coaching and observed practice with a HIP trainer in the place of work

Phase three – ongoing coaching and attendance at regular webinars.

This training has been developed by Patti Robinson and Kurt Strosahl, co-developers of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and pioneers of embedding behavioural health practitioners into primary care in the United States. They have continued to support the New Zealand development of this service model and workforce through Mountain View Consulting. The training programme has generously been made available for use in New Zealand. Te Pou also works with a group of health improvement practitioner trainers in New Zealand to deliver this training.

The training is designed for people who are new to the health improvement practitioner role. To attend you need to have employment as a health improvement practitioner in a general practice.

Watch this video to learn more about the Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP) training from Marcia Sasano, a Master HIP Trainer and our Training Lead for the integrated primary mental health and addiction programme.


Patti Robinson, from Mountain View Consulting in the US, talks about the development of the approach to integrated primary mental health and addiction services in primary care including the role of the health improvement practitioner.

The HIP trainers

HIP resource centre

Key Contacts

Related Initiatives



Te Pou has a wide range of evidence-based resources and tools to help the mental health, addiction and disability workforces.

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Our work

Te Pou works alongside mental health and addiction services, and disability organisations to understand their priorities and workforce challenges.

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