Job Description for Public Health Professionals

From domestic and international terrorism, to the threat of disease epidemics, to a lack of access to clean water and vaccinations for people all over the world, the significance of public health initiatives and the people that make them possible has never been clearer. Public health systems are complex, and many of the most significant public health issues need to be dealt with on a global scale.

Public health efforts may be confined to something as small as a maternal and infant educational program within a community, or something as vast as combating the spread of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Because of the sheer breadth of public health, job descriptions are not always easy to define and classify.

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Further, because of the complexity of public health systems, the coordination of multiple organizations and the work of specialists from a wide array of professions are necessary to accomplish goals, whether on a local, state, national, or international scale. Among the organizations that typically contribute to public health processes are universities, research laboratories, advocacy groups, health departments, hospitals, faith-based organizations, community-based groups, and other non-governmental organizations.

It is therefore important to categorize the professionals who comprise the public health sector in order to begin to understand the professional opportunities that exist.

One of the most valuable ways of identifying public health careers is by classifying them into the various public health professional domains:

  • Biostatistics and Informatics
  • Health Promotion and Communication
  • Community Health
  • Emergency Management
  • Environmental Health
  • Epidemiology and Research
  • Global Health
  • Medical Practice
  • Mental Health
  • Public Health Education
  • Public Policy Administration
  • Social and Behavioral Health Sciences

Biostatistics and Informatics

Biostatistics is a science that draws from statistical reasoning and methods to address problems in public health, while informatics is a closely related field that focuses on the collection of data that is used for public health promotion and preventative measures.

Therefore, public health professionals in biostatistics and informatics, such as systems analysts and biostatisticians, describe, analyze, and interpret health data that is applied to the biological, health, and medical sciences.

Their work involves studying advanced statistical methodologies as a way to better understand health trends among specific populations. For example, professionals in this field of public health often interpret the results of statistical analyses from public health studies and translate them so that both scientific and non-scientific audiences can understand them. Professionals in biostatistics may be involved in clinical trials, spatial studies, and genome projects, just to name a few.

The American Statistical Association reports that biostatisticians often enjoy careers in industry, academia, and government.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Systems Analyst
  • Biostatistician

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Health Promotion and Communications

Public health professionals in health promotion and communications find new ways to educate populations on public health risks or issues. Often considered experts in both public health and public relations, professionals in health promotion and communications may do everything from develop marketing campaigns to draft grant applications to work with a team that is tasked with formulating a response to a specific health concern or crisis.

Technical medical writers, public health journalists, and public health information officers are just a few of the public health professionals responsible for getting the word out about public health issues that affect populations.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Technical Medical Writer
  • Public Health Journalist
  • Public Health Information Officer

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Community Health

Community health is a service-oriented career path in public health. Professionals in community health, from outreach specialists and directors of family health services to food inspectors and program coordinators, are committed to making meaningful contributions to both individuals and to society.

Public health professionals in community health take a holistic approach to healthcare as they try to better understand the structure of a community and how this structure shapes a healthy lifestyle.

Today’s community health professionals are often focused on prevention, such as developing health promotion and wellness programs as a way to reach vulnerable communities and populations, as well as allocating resources to underserved populations. Their work often includes creating and implementing wellness programs, initiating educational activities, and locating and creating resources that promote healthy living.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Director of Family Health Services
  • Outreach Specialist
  • Food Inspectors
  • Program Coordinator

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Emergency Management

Rapidly spreading contagious diseases, natural disasters, and contaminated water supplies are just some of the issues addressed by emergency management professionals. These public health professionals make a significant contribution to the health and safety of populations, and their efforts are required at all levels, from local communities to global regions.

Emergency response specialists, environmental health specialists, bioterrorism researchers, and disease preparedness researchers are some of the public health professionals in emergency management called upon to respond to infectious disease epidemics, natural disasters, and similar emergencies that threaten the safety of populations.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Emergency Response Specialist
  • Environmental Health Specialist
  • Disease Preparedness Researcher
  • Bioterrorism Researcher

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Environmental Health

Environmental health deals with how our environment—both manmade and natural—impacts human health. Public health engineers and environmental health technicians, just a couple of the many public health professionals in environmental health, also focus on sociocultural, work, economic, and family environments. Their work involves applied environmental health, or translating the results of environmental health research into positive actions and public health interventions at the local, national, and global levels.

Environmental health professionals are responsible for identifying different environmental factors and attempting to understand their role in the health of individuals and populations. This work often involves addressing environmental risk factors (like water and air pollution, for example) through innovative solutions that involve research, policy implementation, and education.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Environmental Engineer
  • Environmental Health Technician

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Epidemiology and Research

Epidemiology, the science underlying the practice of public health, provides the conceptual and practical tools necessary to study problems and issues in public health. In short, epidemiology studies the distribution and determinants of states of health in human populations.

Public health professionals in epidemiology and research, who include database administrators, vaccine researchers, and disease ecologists, study trends, patterns, and causes related to diseases within a particular population. Therefore, public health professionals in epidemiology and research are interested in how diseases spread among populations. They also create analytical models that allow us to understand the causes of diseases and solutions to these diseases.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Epidemiologist
  • Research Scientist
  • Database Administrator
  • Vaccine Researcher
  • Disease Ecologist

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Global Health

Global health is an interdisciplinary approach to studying the health of populations, regardless of national or political boundaries. The work of global health involves examining health disparities and specific risk factors and how they affect global populations.

HIV/AIDS research associates, international NGO aid workers, and global infectious disease analysts are just a few of the public health professionals involved in global health. These public health professionals focus their careers on global epidemics, one of the greatest threats to the health of large populations.

Public health professionals in the global health field research diseases, how to contain them, and how to eradicate them. They may design and implement policies as a way to prepare populations for epidemic outbreaks, educate communities on effective treatment options, and facilitate the distribution and allocation of medicine and therapies.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • HIV/Aids Research Associate
  • International NGO Aid Worker
  • Global Infectious Disease Analyst

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Medical Practice

A large part of public health is providing underserved populations with adequate medical care. Public health physicians and public health nurses lead the charge in caring for the health of individuals and populations. From diabetes and hypertension to tobacco use and chronic illnesses that result from unhealthy lifestyles, communities are faced with challenges that threaten their collective health. Further, minority health and health disparities are still a major concern.

Public health professionals in medical practice are committed to educating populations about health risks, understanding the causes of unequal access to health services, and working to alleviate those imbalances. The work of these public health professionals often involves developing ways to distribute available resources and improve the health knowledge of the individuals and communities they serve.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Public Health Physician
  • Public Health Nurse

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Mental Health

Mental health professionals in public health conduct research as a way to better understand the systemic cause and impact of mental and behavioral disorders in populations.

Health and wellness managers, health program coordinators, behavioral research scientists, and behavioral and social scientists are some of the mental health professionals in public health who conduct research as a way to advance the understanding of mental and behavioral disorders. These professionals also develop, implement, and evaluate methods to prevent and control these disorders and promote mental health.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Health and Wellness Manager
  • Health Program Coordinator
  • Behavioral Research Scientist

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Public Health Education

Public health education professionals serve as strong advocates for health education, disease prevention, and health promotion for individuals, groups, and communities.

Nurse educators, health teachers, nutritionists, and academic policy advisors work in public health education positions. Their efforts involve focusing on helping groups of people by developing educational campaigns or programs and promoting healthy habits.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Nurse Educator
  • Health Teacher
  • Nutritionists
  • Academic Policy Advisor

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Public Policy Administration

Public health researchers, healthcare policy analysts, and health service managers oversee public policy administration, which represents the combination of healthcare management and health services delivery systems. Their work addresses issues in areas such as:

  • Health services policy
  • Health care systems
  • Health care delivery
  • Long term care
  • Chronic disease and disability care
  • Financing and economics in public health services delivery

Professionals in public policy administration are knowledgeable in health policy, economics, politics, management, and finance. This interdisciplinary field involves the delivery, quality, and costs of healthcare for individuals and populations. Their work often involves crafting policies that ensure access to medical care and uniform service across a variety of populations.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Public Health Researcher
  • Healthcare Policy Analyst
  • Health Services Manager

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Social and Behavioral Health Sciences

The social and behavioral health sciences comprise a large segment of the public health field. With an emphasis on prevention as well as treatment, public health professionals in the social and behavioral sciences work to develop health promotion and wellness programs for communities and populations.

Public health professionals in the social and behavioral sciences, which include evaluation specialists, intervention researchers, and addiction treatment program developers, are often said to cross a number of practice fields, including researching, planning, administration, and policy development, as they are responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating programs that promote healthy behaviors in domestic or international settings.

Specific jobs within this domain include:

  • Evaluation Specialist
  • Intervention Researcher
  • Addiction Treatment Program Developer

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