Want to explore the different career paths in public health? Public health is a diverse field that offers an ever-increasing variety of challenging career opportunities. Medical experts agree that the coming decades will require major advances in health service delivery and disease prevention for populations around the world.
An increasing emphasis on environmental safety and treatment for the effects of toxic wastes and pollution will also create a demand for more public health professionals. Research that focuses on substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, women’s health issues and disadvantaged populations is another aspect of public health that is becoming increasingly important.
In the aftermath of recent man-made and natural disasters, the federal government has prioritized public health preparedness and emergency response. Funding for government emergency response programs has increased in the past decade, along with funding for public health education in the form of scholarships and loan repayment programs.
5 Career Paths In Public Health
It’s not hard to understand why the Association for Schools of Public Health says there has never been a more exciting time for careers in public health. Here are five examples of career paths in public health:
Professionals in the field of epidemiology investigate the causes of disease and formulate strategies to control its spread. Like detectives, they use fieldwork to determine the who, what, where, and why questions of disease and injury. They are often the first to discover new threats, such as avian flu or mad cow disease, and the first to determine how to contain these threats. Besides understanding the biological and chemical components of disease and injury, epidemiologists study genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors that pose threats to public health.
2. State Environmentalist
The role of an environmental health scientist is to identify environmental conditions that may have a negative impact on human health. Besides protecting the air and water supply, environmentalists are involved in issues related to urban development and land-use planning. This career path requires a strong science background, as well as a foundation in epidemiology and biostatistics.
There are several sub-specialties within the field of environmental health. One branch, toxicology, includes scientists who evaluate environmental data collected in the field. Another important branch is public policy, which includes opportunities to initiate and shape environmental legislation at the state level.
3. Public Health Planner
Public health programs are developed and carried out by public health planners. These professionals assess the health needs of specific communities or populations, conduct investigative studies, and propose solutions for heath care issues. They work closely with local, state and federal government agencies, and are often responsible for securing funding and resources. This may include writing grant proposals and managing grants. They also may work with legislative bodies to develop or advocate for public health policies.
4. Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
Local health departments need emergency preparedness coordinators to develop the capacity to respond to existing and emerging health threats, including bioterrorism. Responsibilities for this position include all aspects of prevention, preparation, response and recovery from community health emergencies. This includes creation of response plans and coordination with law enforcement, fire departments, hospitals, and emergency response agencies like the Red Cross. Emergency Preparedness Coordinators also educate the public about public health threats and carry out public information campaigns.
5. Public Health Communications Specialist
The goal of public health communication is to encourage people to adopt better health practices and improve their health. This often includes encouragement to change unhealthy attitudes and behaviors, and to make major lifestyle changes. In addition to creating effective health messages, public health communicators determine the most appropriate delivery system for different target populations.
In addition to using print and electronic publications, and mass media to spread their health messages, they address interpersonal communication by training counselors and health care providers. Public health communicators also use entertainment-education, referred to as “Enter-Educate,” which employs entertainment media to inform audiences about health topics.
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