What is Public Health?
Public health is the science and art of creating healthy communities through education, research and promotion of healthy lifestyles. While a doctor treats people who are sick, public health professionals focus on health promotion and disease prevention. They also promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors and develop programs that protect the health of individuals, families and communities in the United States and abroad.
Public health is a constantly evolving field that responds to the needs of communities and populations around the world. Throughout the years, public health initiatives such as vaccination programs, motor vehicle safety laws, restrictions on the use of tobacco, family planning and clean air and water standards have saved the lives of millions of people.
As a moral and ethical imperative, public health has a real and lasting positive effect on the lives of millions of people and helps promote healthy environments for both current and future generations.
Why Study Public Health?
The demand for many types of public health professionals is increasing annually because governments are starting to understand that one of the most cost-effective ways to improve population health and cut health costs is to invest in public health disease prevention. Currently, the United States is placing a high priority on building up the nation’s public health workforce.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will be a 37 percent increase in demand for public health educators by 2020. With the increase in demand, there has been a solid rise in salaries for many in the field. Median salaries in common public health fields range from $45,500 to $82,000.
Public Health Job Titles and Responsibilities
By earning a Masters of Public Health, you can pursue a career as a public health educator, environmental scientist, statistician, public health nurse, behavioral scientist, disease investigator, occupational health specialist, health policy advisor, public health analyst, public health information officer, or health service manager. You can also pursue your career in a variety of settings, including national, state and local government; national and local health agencies and departments; nonprofit organizations; colleges and universities; private health-based organizations and foundations; faith-based organizations; and insurance companies.
From conducting scientific research to educating about health, you will work to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. That can mean vaccinating children and adults to prevent the spread of disease or educating people about the risks of alcohol and tobacco. Public health professionals also set safety standards to protect workers and develop school nutrition programs to ensure kids have access to healthy food.
Depending on your specific field of expertise, you may be tasked with tracking disease outbreaks, preventing injuries and shedding light on why some of us are more likely to suffer from poor health than others. The many facets of public health include speaking out for laws that promote smoke-free indoor air and seatbelts, spreading the word about ways to stay healthy and giving science-based solutions to problems.
Top schools offering online Masters of Public Health include:
Getting a Master’s Degree in Public Health
Public health degrees provide students with a solid foundation in issues that impact population health and healthcare systems, including environmental health, disease prevention, health informatics, global health, ethics, and behavioral and cultural issues. While it is possible to gain experience in the field, many public health careers require a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree for entry and advancement in the profession.
The five core educational disciplines associated with public health include behavioral science/health education, biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, and health services administration. Students enrolled in public health degree programs have a variety of study paths from which to choose. Specialization areas include chronic disease, global health, biomedical lab sciences, maternal and child health, nutrition/dietetics, occupational health and safety, exercise science, food safety, health law, infectious diseases, neuroscience, parasitology, women’s health, tropical medicine and more.
Obtaining a Masters of Public Health will arm you with the knowledge and skills necessary to make a real difference in public health and will allow you to demonstrate competence in the key disciplines and theories of public health, as well as in specific health areas such as health promotion and protection. You will also be able to critically analyze theories and issues related to public health and employ a range of appropriate research and analysis methods.
By earning a masters of public health, you will develop a broad base of healthcare expertise, from data management and analysis to clinical research and organizational leadership. For more information on masters of public health degrees, click here.