Public health professionals in Arkansas are involved in responding to some of the state’s most serious threats to health and safety. These responses can be as complex as developing a statewide plan for dealing with a possible Ebola outbreak, or as simple as hosting annual rabies vaccination clinics for household pets. Arkansas’ public health professionals come from a variety of specialized backgrounds from both the private and public sectors.
Going forward, the future for public health professionals in Arkansas looks promising. According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the statewide job outlook for many public health professionals in the decade leading up to 2022 is enviable when compared with the state’s average job growth rate for that same period, which stands at 10.5 percent:
- Mental Health Counselor positions are projected to increase by 28 percent
- Healthcare Social Worker positions are projected to increase by 22 percent
- Rehabilitation Counselor positions are projected to increase by 21 percent
- Medical and Health Service Manager positions are projected to increase by 18 percent
- Dietitian and Nutritionist positions are projected to increase by 16 percent
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Each year the state budgets millions of dollars for public health and finds additional sources of funding in the form of grants and endowments. For example, in 2015 the Arkansas Department of Health received a federal grant for $9.1 million to support nurse-family partnerships and home health care. This year also saw another federal grant totaling $48,000 being awarded to 28 organizations throughout the state to raise awareness about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), something that has killed 274 Arkansas infants between 2008 and 2012.
Working to Promote Public Health in Arkansas
Countering public health threats – often through proactive actions – is a challenge in which many professionals can and must participate. Public health professionals from many backgrounds can rise to this occasion. Some examples of actual public health job descriptions in Arkansas include the following:
Environmental Health Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Health – duties for this position include conducting health inspections to ensure compliance of state and federal laws at places including restaurants, swimming pools, sewage disposal facilities, and body art establishments.
Health Program Specialist II with the Arkansas Department of Health – incumbents in this position will be responsible for developing, planning, and maintaining public health programs throughout the state.
Epidemiologist with the Arkansas Department of Health – these public health professionals study, evaluate, and respond to environmental health problems and related diseases. This includes ameliorating and investigating public health epidemiological risks.
Public Health Social Worker at the Oasis Renewal Center – located in Little Rock, the Oasis is an addiction recovery and treatment center that employs a team of public health professionals to approach substance addiction with effective solutions.
Public health officials are instrumental in facing challenges posed to the greater Arkansas community head-on. When a wide range of professionals from a spectrum of fields come together – from both the public and private sectors – some of the state’s most serious challenges can be dealt with. Some recent examples include:
- Each year the Arkansas Department of Health joins with community partners, private organizations, and volunteers to host the Arkansas Minority Barber & Beauty Shop Health Initiative. This event provides free cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar screenings across several counties in participating barber and beauty shops. Public health medical personnel and program directors are important to making this program a reality.
- Each year community centers and universities throughout the state join forces with the Arkansas Department of Public Health to raise awareness for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, hosting events and offering free testing to participating community members.
- Each August private businesses, community organizations, and the Arkansas Department of Health come together to sponsor events and raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.
Advancing your Career with a Master’s Degree in Public Health
Each individual career in public health has its own requirements, be it in the private, public, or non-profit sector. Common among all careers are the requirements for professionalism and expertise in ones field. Many entry-level public health positions require a bachelor’s degree, while advancing in a given career pathway often requires experience and a master’s-level education.
Graduating with an undergraduate degree in public health can be a good starting point that will provide a strong foundation in this field for candidates to build upon as they find a field that inspires lifelong dedication.
The following are examples of public health career requirements for positions surveyed throughout Arkansas in 2015. These job descriptions are provided for illustrative purposes:
Health Program Specialist II with the Arkansas Department of Health – minimum qualifications for this position include either a master’s degree in Public Health, Public Health Administration, or a related field, or a bachelor’s degree in one of these fields plus at least one year of related work experience.
Epidemiologist with the Arkansas Department of Health – candidates are preferred to have a Master’s of Public Health degree in Epidemiology or an equivalent area of study. Minimum qualifications include either the equivalent of a master’s degree in biology plus two years of related work experience, or the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in Biology plus four years of related work experience.
Public Health Social Worker at the Oasis Renewal Center – the Social Workers at Oasis have professional qualifications that include master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and professional certifications in subjects like Health Education, Addiction Studies, and Psychology.
Environmental Health Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Health – the preferred qualifications for this job include a bachelor’s of science in Environmental Health, Biology, or a related field. Candidates can qualify by having an equivalent combination of education and work experience.
Public Health Resources in Arkansas
Aspiring students of public health and job candidates can find additional resources with agencies such as these. Just as these organizations are happy to provide public health services, they can also be forthcoming with information for prospective colleagues.
- Arkansas Department of Health, responsible for management of all county health departments
- Pulaski County Health Unit, with branches in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Jacksonville
- Sebastian County Health Unit in Fort Smith
- Washington County Health Unit in Fayetteville with a WIC Clinic in Springdale
- Craighead County Health Unit in Jonesboro
- Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality
- Arkansas Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program
- Partnership for Health Literacy in Arkansas
- Arkansas branch of the National Alliance on Mental Health
- Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention
Private and Non-Profit Organizations
- Arkansas Public Health Association
- Arkansas Cancer Coalition
- Arkansas Society for Public Health Education
- Arkansas Nurses Association