What Can I Do in Public Health?

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These days a career in Public Health is a practical move for a current student, new graduate or even someone looking for a career change. Additionally, there are many people with various backgrounds and skill sets who have amazing jobs in public health. There are so many options from which to choose. That said, here is a quick review of a few of the fields and the specific jobs one can pursue. 

Field/Concentrations:

EPIDEMIOLOGY

  • What is it: Looking at disease patterns and trends within populations and making recommendations for a course of action to address illness.
  • Job Example: Public Health Analyst, Researcher, Demographer 
  • Crucial skills: Analyzing and assessing Data

BIOSTATISTICS

  • What is it:  Describing, analyzing, and interpreting health data that is applied to the biological, health, and medical sciences. 
  • Job Example: Bio-statistician, Health Informatics 
  • Examples of Areas Covered: Community Health Surveys, Population Sampling, Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Crucial Skills: A liking for numbers or math, analyzing and assessing Data 

MATERNAL & CHILD HEALTH 

  • What is it: A focus on the health of women and children (i.e., prenatal care, maternal and infant mortality prevention).
  • Job Example: Program Director, Social Work, Health Educator 
  • Examples of Areas Covered: Women’s’ Health, Health Equity, Sexual & Reproductive Health, Nutrition 
  • Crucial Skills: Research, interpersonal skills

HEALTH LAW/POLICY 

  • What is it: Study of the legislative processes and application of the law to public health systems and activities. It is also creating laws based in public health. 
  • Job Example: General Counsel, Public Health Law Center, Advocacy, Health Economist 
  • Examples of Areas Covered: Health Insurance, Federal, State and Local Legislation, Advocacy, Policy and Regulations 
  • Crucial Skills: Policy development, understanding laws and codes, public speaking,

SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL (COMMUNITY HEALTH) 

  • What is it: Stuyding individuals and how they relate to their surrounding community. Analyze social determinants of health and other risk factors, and then determine interventions. 
  • Job Example: Health Care Administrator, Health Educator, Program Coordinator 
  • Examples of Areas Covered: Tobacco Control, Diabetes Care Management, Health Disparities, Mental Health, Nutrition
  • Crucial Skills: Program planning, communication, cultural competency, counseling

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH 

  • What is it: Focuses on the relationships between people and their environment. 
  • Job Example: Toxicologist, Health Scientist, Nutritionist, Environmental Scientist 
  • Examples of Areas Covered: Climate Change, Air and Water Quality, Built Environment
  • Crucial Skills: Research, chemistry, advocacy

GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH 

  • What is it: A combination of all of the above on an international scale. There is a focus on health that goes beyond borders. 
  • Job Example: Health Economist, infectious disease, Scientist 
  • Crucial Skills: Research, communications, recruiting 

The Crossovers and The Highly Specialized

Of course, there are jobs, areas and skills that that fit in multiple areas. As the field evolves, professionals discover ways to connect different areas. For example, social and behavioral sciences are directly linked with one’s environment (both social and natural). The convergence of two or more areas give a good reason for high-level positions. The professionals who hold these positions have mastered multiple skills in multiple areas. At times, they may also have multiple degrees. As a result, they have gained experience and expertise in several job functions. Below are examples of high level positions that may require the additional qualification of MD.

  • C Suite/Executive Staff
  • Health Commissioner 
  • Health Minister 
  • Surgeon General 

One Last Thing to Remember…

To sum up, the public health field is focused on service. Therefore, many careers paths lead to what we call direct service programs. Basically, direct services are where one has direct contact with the target community. Then, the overall goal is to provide a service that has a positive impact. As in most careers whether you aim to be a C-suite level executive or conduct field work, knowledge and experience are key to an evolving career.

Stay tuned to my “InPHormation with Deidre” series on YouTube for more information on jobs and career choices in Public Health. Coming up, you can catch interviews of people with career paths across the spectrum of Public Health.

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