The public health challenges that Delaware faces are extensive. That is why it takes coalitions of professionals from different fields representing both the public and private sectors, coming together with common public health goals to effectively resolve these challenges. Public health in Delaware can mean mental health services, epidemiology, environmental health, addiction treatment, and everything in-between.
According to figures released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Delaware’s public health professionals rank nationally in several categories:
- Nursing Instructors are found in the fourth-highest concentration in Delaware as compared to all other states, and in Sussex County these professionals earn the highest average salary of all rural areas in the United States
- Health Educators earn the fourth-highest average salary in Delaware
- Medical and Health Services Managers in Sussex County earn the fourth-highest average salary compared with all other rural areas in the nation
Delaware’s public health sector is expecting enviable job growth according to the Delaware Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information for the period between 2012 and 2022, especially when compared with its average job growth rate of nine percent:
- Mental Health Counselors – 20 percent
- Dieticians and Nutritionists – 19 percent
- Community Health Workers – 17 percent
- Environmental Specialists and Environmental Health Scientists – 15 percent
Starting in 2009 as part of the Recovery Act with funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH), Delaware received $19.3 million to fund public health programs. More recent NIH grants in 2015 have included:
- $295,711 for the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington – This hospital specializes in the treatment of children for disorders related to cardiology, cancer, blood, neuroscience, and orthopedics.
- $3.75 million for a local university based in Newark – This funding was to conduct research into topics including nutrition as it relates to low-income residents, fitness and strength training in children, vulnerabilities to neonatal infections, and diabetes management in a marital context.
What Public Health in Delaware Looks Like
Public health professionals can be administrators, bacteriologists, bioterrorism experts, mental health specialists, or nutritionists to name just a few occupations in this field. Examples of some recent public health initiatives in Delaware have included:
- Public health journalists, epidemiologists, and program directors were recently involved in an annual education campaign throughout Delaware to raise awareness about STDs, citing the fact that almost half of all new STD cases in the state occur in young adults aged 15 to 24.
- Public health coordinators, educators, and administrators were recently involved in a push to train 10 AmeriCorps participants to lead a New Castle County program that educates 12 to 20-year-olds on the dangers and pit-falls of substance abuse. Public health statisticians and epidemiologists conceptualize substance abuse in much the same way as an epidemic, and have found taking preventative education measures to be an effective means of combating this challenge.
- Biologists and other lab scientists working with the private company Envirocorps Labs in Harrington to detect potential public health threats such as bacteriological or fungal contamination in water by testing soil, drinking water, and areas around wastewater storage and treatment facilities.
Qualifications to Advance in Public Health Careers
While a bachelor’s degree is often a foundational requirement for entry-level positions in public health, candidates who are interested in pursuing long-term careers with advancement opportunities can also consider a master’s degree in public health. This could be considered a foundational qualification for higher-level careers at the management and specialist levels. In many cases an MPH provides public health professionals with the advanced theory and skills they will use every day in their work environment.
Because of the range of career trajectories in public health, many different types of educational background are also valuable, including MPH degrees with more specialized concentrations. The following are examples for illustrative purposes of the descriptions and qualification requirements of several public health jobs in Delaware:
Biostatistician – General Dynamics Information Technology based out of Dover Air Force Base hires these professionals to develop data collection techniques, analyze data, and perform administrative tasks to ensure the health and well being of service members. These professionals are required to have a master’s degree in Public Health Epidemiology or Biostatistics.
Population Health Specialist II – Nemours Health and Prevention Services, a part of Nemours Children’s Health System with locations throughout the state, employs these professionals to perform duties that include the analysis and evaluation of child health issues with the goal of improving health outcomes. Requirements for this position include an advanced degree in Social Work, Psychology, or another related field.
Epidemiologist II – the Delaware Health and Social Services department hires these professionals to manage, track, and develop strategies to combat infectious diseases statewide. A recent job posting indicated the department was hiring an Epidemiologist II to run an HIV/AIDS surveillance and epidemiology program. Requirements for this position include a bachelor’s degree or higher in the Life, Physical, or Health Sciences, or a related field.
A Master of Public Health degree is traditionally offered as a general degree or as an MPH with a concentration in any of the following areas. The general MPH curriculum will also cover all of these subjects:
- MPH in Biostatistics – focuses on methods of analysis and collection of data
- MPH in Epidemiology – focuses on disease monitoring, tracking, and proactive prevention
- MPH in Environmental Health – focuses on the public health threats to the environment such as pollution or contamination, and often deals with regulatory rules and laws
- MPH in Occupational Health – focuses on work-related public health issues such as safety and includes a role in developing or enforcing laws and regulations
- MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education – focuses on preventative and informative education about public health issues, including those related to mental health and addictive substances
- MPH in Health Policy and Management – focuses on public health at the macro level and develops evidence-based strategies to most effectively counter public health threats; also includes administrative management theories and practices
Delaware’s Public Health Resources
Delaware is home to a variety of governmental, private, and non-profit public health organizations. These can be devoted to one particular public health issue or can be an umbrella organization that provides many resources for many issues:
- Delaware Health and Social Services
- DHSS Division of Public Health
- James W. Williams State Service Center in Dover
- Thomas Collins Building in Dover
- Floyd I. Hudson State Service Center in Newark
- Winder Laird Porter State Service Center in Wilmington
- DeLaWarr State Service Center in New Castle
- Claymont State Service Center and Community Center
- Division of Public Health Laboratory in Smyrna
- Delaware Cancer Registrars Association
- Delaware Healthcare Association
- Delaware Center for the Inland Bays
Non-Profit and Private Organizations
- Delaware Public Health Association
- Delaware Harm Reduction Coalition
- Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition
- Autism Delaware
- Mental Health Association in Delaware
- Delaware Association for Environmental Education