Professionals from Colorado’s public and private sectors play an instrumental role when it comes to promoting public health throughout the state. Slowing the spread of infectious diseases, educating the public about preventable illnesses, and advocating for a healthy living environment are only some of the important endeavors taken on by Colorado’s public health professionals.
For example, a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that through the efforts of the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, the state was leading the nation when it came to successful family planning for low-income teens. Between 2009-2013 Colorado’s teen birth rate fell by 40 percent, teen abortions fell by 35 percent, and approximately $79 million was saved on medical expenses.
Colorado fosters teamwork, collaboration, and an idealistic commitment to public health causes, attracting some of the top professionals in the field. The state’s well-educated and dedicated workforce earns a competitive salary. In fact, according to figures released by the US Department of Labor in 2014:
- Colorado offers the fourth-highest average salary in the nation for Community Health Workers, Environmental Health Scientists, and Environmental Scientists
- Colorado has the third-highest concentration of Epidemiologists in the nation
- Of all rural areas in the nation, Rehabilitation Counselors in Western Colorado earn the second-highest average salary, while Social and Human Service Assistants in North Central Colorado earn the fourth-highest average salary
Colorado’s Public Health Professionals at Work
In recent years, Colorado’s public health sector received a significant shot in the arm as part of the 2009 Recovery Act, which totaled more than $131 million. The effects of this are still being felt across the state today. More recently in 2015, the National Institute of Health has awarded private and public organizations in Colorado more than $58 million to fund projects ultimately designed to promote public health:
- $224,939 for intervention efforts to prevent youth from accessing marijuana
- Over $3.6 million in general support for cancer centers
- $57,962 to study tumor response to new treatments for breast cancer
- $315,974 to support child health research
- Over $1.9 million to study the herpes virus
- $459,919 to support education for parents who smoke in ways to limit exposure to their children
- $344,165 to help adolescents with substance abuse and conduct problems
Public health in Colorado spans a wide field of services and professionals. The state’s public health initiatives include (2015):
- Colorado was not spared from the national scare resulting from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as a patient was admitted to a Loveland Hospital with symptoms of the virus. Public health officials worked from a variety of angles to educate the local public, trace any routes of possible transmission to other Coloradans, and monitor any situations that might have further developed. Luckily this case served to test the readiness of public health officials, as the patient later tested negative for Ebola.
- Colorado’s public health professionals, including members of the science community, recently met to discuss a newly discovered and significantly large methane emission hotspot that had been detected by a satellite. Public health officials were involved to determine the source of the gas and provide regulatory authority as needed.
- Public health officials participated in an awareness raising campaign to educate Coloradans on the easy measures that can be taken to detect and prevent serious colorectal cancer. Survivors of cancer, public health leaders, and local businesses participated in the event, which culminated with an address at the Denver City and County Building.
Some of the many job classifications in Colorado’s Public Health field include:
- Tobacco Cessation Specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – This position is part of the department’s Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention Branch, and involves organizing outreach programs, appearing at events, acting as a tobacco expert, networking with other organizations, and administrative tasks that are related to the state’s tobacco cessation programs and goals.
- Epidemiologist with Peak Vista Community Health Centers – Located in Colorado Springs, this non-profit organization hires epidemiologists to monitor, investigate, and evaluate infectious as well as chronic diseases throughout the greater community. Duties also include making reports and recommendations on ways to combat these public health threats.
- Clinician with AspenPointe – Located in Colorado Springs, this organization provides mental health services related to drug abuse and wellness.
Earning a Master’s Degree in Public Health
A standard qualification for career advancement in this sector is a Master of Public Health (MPH). This is also the standard path for career changers looking to enter the public health sector since MPH programs honor transfer credits from bachelor’s degree programs in any major.
MPH degrees are multidisciplinary programs that introduce students to the five core public health disciplines in accordance with requirements set forth by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH):
- Health Administration
- Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health Education and Behavioral Sciences
While a master’s degree in Public Health is often an underlying foundation for more advanced careers in this field, there are many majors, including MPH concentrations, that will prepare candidates to excel in various public health fields. Among these are degrees in Emergency Management, Epidemiology, Health Education, Administration, and the Environmental Sciences.
Examples of the education requirements for some public health positions in Colorado include:
- Tobacco Cessation Specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – To qualify for this position candidates will need to have a master’s degree in Public Health or related field plus one year of work experience, or a bachelor’s degree in a similar field plus two years of related work experience.
- Epidemiologist with Peak Vista Community Health Centers – This non-profit organization prefers to hire candidates who have an MPH in Epidemiology, but will also consider candidates who have a master’s degree in a related field.
- Clinician with AspenPointe – This organization was recently looking to hire a Clinician IV with at least a master’s degree in Social Work, Counseling, or a related behavioral health field.
Colorado’s Public Health Employers
Colorado is home to numerous public, private, and non-profit organizations that are dedicated to promoting health, well-being, and inter-agency cooperation throughout the state. Some of these organizations include:
- Denver Public Health
- El Paso County Public Health
- Tri-County Health Department, serving Arapahoe, Adams, and Douglas Counties
- Jefferson County Public Health
- Larimer County Public Health
- Boulder County Public Health
- Colorado Department of Agriculture
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Northern Colorado AIDS Project
- Denver Colorado AIDS Project
- The Empowerment Program
- CHARG Resource Center
- Harm Reduction Action Center
- Colorado Community Health Network
Private and Non-Profit Organizations
- Hep C Connection
- Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials
- Colorado Public Health Association
- Colorado Nurses Association
- Colorado Society for Clinical Social Work