The District of Columbia’s Rubber Revolution is a great example of public health in action. Every April the DC Department of Health observes STD Awareness Month, joining with local businesses and non-profit organizations to promote education about sexually transmitted diseases. The Rubber Revolution campaign is a partnership between the DC Department of Health and participating organizations to offer all district residents access to free contraceptives.
A campaign such as this involves the collaboration of both the private and public sectors, with the expertise of epidemiologists, program directors, public health journalists, biostatisticians, community health workers, and health educators, to name just a few. Out of recognition of these professionals’ ideological commitment to the greater public good, in many instances DC offers its public health professionals some of the most competitive salaries in the United States.
According to numbers released by the US Department of Labor in 2014, the following professional classifications garnered the highest average salaries in DC when compared with all other metro areas in the nation:
- Emergency Management Directors
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
- Social and Human Service Assistants
- Community Health Workers
- Environmental Scientists
- Environmental Health Specialists
- Medical and Health Services Managers
Other DC public health professionals also rank among the top-five highest earners in the nation:
- Health Educators – second-highest average salary in the nation
- Healthcare and Social Workers – third-highest average salary in the nation
Because of its status, most public health funding Washington, DC receives is federal. For example, in 2009 it received a total of $84.19 million from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to support public health initiatives. More recently, the proposed 2016 budget totals $258.2 million, and includes funding for important programs like:
- Public health emergency preparedness
- Epidemiology disease investigation and surveillance
- Treatment for and prevention of STDs, HIV/AIDS, TB, and Hepatitis
- Health care regulation and licensing
- Creation of public health policies and plans
- Community health promotion and prevention programs
Nature and Scope of Public Health in Washington, DC
Public health in the nation’s capital is especially important and requires professionals from diverse backgrounds working together in a concerted effort with specific goals in mind. Some recent examples of DC public health in action as of 2015 include:
- Health and Wellness Initiatives – Program directors, dieticians, nutritionists, health teachers, fitness instructors, and public health journalists from both the public and private sectors joined forces with the mayor to launch a health campaign to encourage residents to eat better, get more exercise, and kick bad habits like smoking and drinking.
- Preparedness for Infectious Diseases – National headlines have recently featured outbreaks of measles and Ebola. Public health professionals in DC – including nurses and other health care providers, epidemiologists, statisticians, public health educators, and global infectious disease analysts – have responded by treating a confirmed case of measles in DC, as well as making preparations to receive Ebola patients. DC hospitals are one of only 35 locations in the nation equipped to treat Ebola.
- Recalls of Contaminated Consumer Products – Biologists, lab scientists, and food inspectors are among the professionals involved in the consumer-safety branch of public health. Through inspection and analysis, these professionals ensure consumers stay safe from contaminated products, and orchestrate food recalls when bacteria or other contaminants are found. Just recently, turnips and mixed greens were recalled because of a potential lid-sealing defect. Similar types of public health professionals work to ensure drinking water is safe.
Qualifications to Work as a Public Health Professional
A Master of Public Health is an important qualification professionals in this field should consider, especially when pursuing more advanced careers and specializations.
An MPH is required for many positions because it demonstrates core knowledge of the major areas of public health:
- Social and behavioral sciences
- Environmental health
- Health administration and policy
The following careers and associated qualifications are examples provided for illustrative purposes:
Program Management and Partnership Specialist with the World Health Organization (WHO) – Candidates for this position would work towards specific goals of the WHO by making strategic partnerships, as well as through effective management.
Desirable candidate qualifications include a Master of Public Health.
Supervisory Dietician with the DC Department of Behavioral Health – Candidates applying for this position would serve as the principle dietician at a local hospital, guiding and advising other dieticians under the incumbent’s supervision.
A bachelor’s degree in Public Health Nutrition, Nutrition, Institution Management, or Dietetics is required, while candidates with a master’s degree in any of these fields would receive preferential consideration.
Senior Public Health Specialist with Amtrak – Candidates for this position would be responsible for ensuring Amtrak is in compliance with food and safety regulations.
Applicants with an advanced degree in a field like Biology or Environmental Science are preferred.
Washington DC’s Public Health Resources
In addition to being the national headquarters of many public health organizations, DC is also home to many governmental and non-governmental local public health agencies:
- DC Department of Behavioral Health
- DC District Department of the Environment
- DC Department of Employment Services, Office of Occupational Safety and Health
- DC Department of Health
- DC Department of Health, Food Safety and Hygiene Inspection Services Division
- Farmers’ Markets for Seniors
- Project WISH (Women Into Staying Health)
- Access to Recovery Program
- Hillcrest Children and Family Center
- Georgia Avenue Family Support Collaborative
- World Health Organization
Private and Non-Profit Organizations
- The Women’s Center
- Autism Speaks
- National Cervical Cancer Coalition
- Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
- DC Environmental Network
- Energy Action Coalition
- Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association
- District of Columbia Nurses Association
- Black Nurses Association of Greater Washington DC