Factsheet: What is a health promotion charity?

A health promotion charity (HPC) is a type of charity that can register with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). Health promotion charities (like public benevolent institutions) can apply for charity tax concessions and may be eligible for deductible gift recipient (DGR) status with the Australian Tax Office (ATO). If you want to be a DGR under the health promotion charity category, your charity must first be registered as a health promotion charity with the ACNC and satisfy other requirements of the ATO. Find out more about registering.

This factsheet explains what a health promotion charity is. It sets out the key characteristics, but your charity may have other characteristics which could still make it a health promotion charity.

Some of the words used may seem old-fashioned, but they are still used in charity law which has developed over hundreds of years. We have tried to explain them.

What is a health promotion charity?

Health promotion charities became recognised in charity law as public health policy and research progressed and it was accepted that preventing disease was just as important as treating its symptoms. Over time, many charities providing direct treatment changed their focus to prevention, including research and public education. These are now recognised by the ACNC and ATO as a particular type of charity.

The specific legal meaning of health promotion charity is 'a charitable institution whose principal activity is to promote the prevention or the control of diseases in human beings'. Not all health-related charities are health promotion charities.

Examples of health promotion charities include some community health care providers, medical research organisations and organisations that work to raise awareness of human diseases.

Is my charity a health promotion charity?

If your charity works to promote health, it may be a health promotion charity if:

  • it meets the legal meaning of a charity
  • it is an institution
  • it promotes the prevention or the control of disease in human beings
  • its promotion activity is your charity's principal activity.

Is my charity an institution?

An institution is 'an establishment, organisation or association, instituted for the promotion of some object, especially objects of public utility, or that are religious, charitable or educational.

To be an institution your charity must be not merely be a fund. It must also do more than just distribute funds to other organisations or individuals, or simply make property available for others (as a fund may do). It must have its own activities or engage others to undertake activities on its behalf.

To show your charity is an institution you need evidence of activities, for example of promotion activities like educational campaigns.

Your charity may need to have a separately identifiable structure to be an institution, but it does not need to have a particular legal structure. However, its size and permanence are also relevant.

Does my charity promote the prevention or control of disease?

'Disease' is a broad concept and may include any mental or physical ailment, disorder, defect or morbid condition, whether of sudden onset or gradual development and whether of genetic or other origin.

Some examples of disease are asthma, cancer, AIDS, arthritis, heart conditions, brain conditions, kidney conditions, dementia, autism, cerebral palsy, mental illness and multiple sclerosis.

However, not everything that affects a person's mind or body is a disease. For example, a condition like pregnancy is not a disease. Similarly, symptoms due to an accident are not a disease, like a broken arm from a fall.

To be considered a health promotion charity your charity must specify which disease or diseases it is or will be concerned with preventing or controlling - promoting 'health' or 'wellbeing' alone is not enough.

To be a health promotion charity, the disease must also affect people. For example, your charity works to prevent or control disease in animals, birds or plants it will not be in the health promotion charity category.

Does my charity work towards prevention or control?

The main focus of a health promotion charity is preventing or controlling disease. A broad view is taken of the activities that might promote prevention or control of disease. Controlling disease includes easing suffering and distress associated with disease, and managing and treating disease.

While the activities of preventing or controlling disease must be the main focus of a health promotion charity, these do not need to be the only activities of the charity.

Some examples of health promotion activities include:

  • providing general education to people suffering or at risk of suffering from a disease
  • providing general education to carers of people with a disease
  • developing or providing aids or equipment to help people suffering from a disease
  • engaging in medical research into the causes, prevention or treatment of a disease
  • engaging in community awareness about a disease.

Prevention or control activities include educating people about 'lifestyle' factors, such as nutrition and exercise. These factors play a part in preventing and causing disease, as well as affecting the symptoms of disease. For example, good nutrition and regular exercise can reduce the incidence or extent of some diseases, such as heart disease.

Is this my charity's principal activity?

There must be a clear link between the charity's primary activity and health promotion - it must not be incidental, remote or indirect. For example, promoting cycling in the community may lead to general health benefits but this link has been held by the courts to be too remote for an organisation doing this to be a health promotion charity. It must also be more than general welfare, even though the ultimate impact of the activity may have a result of improving health.

More information

Read this factsheet together with:

Contact the ACNC

Phone: 13 ACNC (13 22 62)
Email: advice@acnc.gov.au
Mail: Advice Services, Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, GPO Box 5108, Melbourne VIC 3001
Fax: 1300 232 569


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