Connecticut faces public health challenges on a range of fronts from preventable diseases to environmental pollution to sanitation regulation. An equally diverse range of public health professionals lead the charge to resolve these challenges.
State and local governments, as well as private companies and non-profit organizations, all support Connecticut’s public health professionals. This is evidenced in part by funding and in part by numbers.
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Connecticut ranks nationally when it comes to both the highest average salary for public health professionals, as well as job concentration:
- Social and Human Services Assistants – Connecticut offers the highest average salary in the nation for these professionals
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers – Connecticut offers the second-highest average salary for these professionals
- Healthcare Social Workers – Connecticut offers the second-highest average salary in the nation for these professionals
- Medical and Health Services Managers – Connecticut offers the third-highest average salary of all states for these professionals
- Nutritionists and Dieticians – Connecticut offers the fourth-highest average salary for these professionals
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors – Waterbury has the third-highest concentration of Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors of all cities in the nation, while the northwestern rural regions of Connecticut offer the fourth-highest average salary for these professionals of all rural areas in the nation
- Mental Health Counselors – rural Northwestern Connecticut has the highest concentration of these professionals of all rural areas in the United States
- Rehabilitation Counselors – of all states in the nation, Connecticut has the fifth-highest concentration of these professionals
Much of the state’s public health funding comes from government revenue. In 2009, Connecticut received $179.1 million in public health grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That comes out to approximately $50 for every resident of Connecticut. This has been followed more recently by these 2015 NIH public health grants in Connecticut:
- $1.67 million to Haskins Laboratory in New Haven – this lab conducts research that relates to reading and writing disabilities
- $703,008 to the John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven – this non-profit organization conducts research that relates to the environmental impact on physiological systems
- $728,370 to Hartford Hospital – this health care facility offers a variety of public health services, including those related to mental health, behavioral health, women, seniors, and bereavement
- $489,150 to Promethius Research in New Haven – this company provides data management services for a number of universities and foundations, particularly those that specialize in autism, children with special needs, and other issues pertaining to children
Public Health Challenges and Responses in Connecticut
Connecticut’s public health professionals face the state’s health care challenges using a variety of traditional and innovative approaches. One recently touted program is the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s 2020 Performance Dashboard, a program that measures statewide health goals leading up to 2020. Meeting these goals will require a concerted and deliberate effort on the part of public health professionals from both the public and private sectors. The Dashboard includes a seven-point goal program, with some of the specific goals listed below:
- Optimization of the health and well being of families, women, infants, and children:
- Reduce unplanned pregnancies to 31 percent
- Raise by 10 percent the number of women who talk with a health care provider about pre-pregnancy health
- Enhance public health by decreasing risk factors in the environment:
- Bring the percentage of children with high blood-lead levels below three percent
- Improve the water quality of ground-based wells and reduce overall water contamination
- Reduce chronic diseases through proven methods and early intervention:
- Cut the number of heart disease deaths by 10 percent
- Reduce the adult cigarette smoking rate by 20 percent
- Eliminate Connecticut’s infectious disease burden:
- Increase the number of children who receive nationally-recommended vaccinations by five percent
- Cut the rate of pertussis by five percent
- Minimize and eliminate exposure injuries:
- Reduce the number of fall-related emergency room visits by 10 percent
- Reduce deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents by five percent
- Increase access to behavioral health services, including those related to substance abuse:
- Decrease the number of mental health-related emergency room visits by five percent
- Reduce the number of youths aged 14-18 who drink alcohol by five percent
- Improve access to public health systems:
- Increase by 10 percent the number of adults who have public or private health insurance
- Increase the access of health care providers to patients’ electronic health records to 100 percent
The types of public health professionals who take on these challenges will come from many different backgrounds, including:
Microbiologist I with the state’s Department of Public Health – This class of professional will be instrumental in achieving the state’s goal of decreasing environmental risk factors through scientific testing, analysis, and policy advising.
Behavioral Health Unit Supervisor with the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services – This class of professional is irreplaceable when it comes to achieving the state’s goal of improved access to behavioral health services.
Administrator and Program Director for private and non-profit associations – Organizations like the Breast Cancer Alliance, based in Greenwich, are important in realizing many of the state’s public health goals. Professionals working for these organizations must be adept at networking, organizing, and communicating.
Public Health Professional Qualifications
Because public health professionals hail from all walks of life, they will also have a diverse range of educational backgrounds. What is common among these is professionalism and a dedication to the greater good. Professionalism is typically exhibited through work experience and education, many times in a field related directly to public health.
While many entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to public health, pursuing a master’s in public health will provide a beneficial level of expertise for specialized public health positions, and can also fulfill additional employment qualification requirements.
While an MPH is a solid foundation for career advancement or transition, public health professionals can choose from many types of educational backgrounds:
Microbiologist I with the state’s Department of Public Health – This position requires a master’s degree in a field of Natural Science, or at least five years of relevant work experience in a public health clinical laboratory.
Behavioral Health Unit Supervisor with the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services – This position requires a master’s degree in a field related to Health Care, plus two years of general and specialized work experience. Candidates can also qualify with an equivalent combination of education and work experience.
Administrators and Program Directors – These positions are found throughout the private and public sectors, and can require a master’s degree in Public Health, Business Administration, or related fields. For example, the Executive Director of the Breast Cancer Alliance in Greenwich meets this qualification.
Public Health Resources
Connecticut is home to many public health organizations at all levels of government, in addition to non-governmental organizations. These include but are not limited to the following:
State and Local Government
- Connecticut Department of Public Health
- Ledge Light Health District
- Bridgeport Health Administration
- New Haven Health Department
- Hartford Health and Human Services
- Stamford Department of Health and Social Services
- Waterbury Department of Public Health
- Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
- Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
- Connecticut Lung Cancer Alliance
- Connecticut Brain Tumor Alliance
- Mental Health Association of Connecticut
Private and Non-Profit
- Breast Cancer Alliance
- Connecticut Harm Reduction Coalition
- Connecticut Association of Directors of Health
- Connecticut Public Health Association
- Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association