Working as part of multidisciplinary teams, Florida’s public health specialists work to confront the many health challenges that affect communities throughout the state. While these professionals come from many different educational backgrounds, they share a common goal: To reduce or eliminate a wide range of public heath threats through regulation, inspection, education, and other preventative strategies.
For example, the Florida Department of Health recently rolled out its Sexual Violence Prevention Program, which has involved the combined efforts of public health professionals from multiple fields working together in an educational campaign designed to reduce the level of sexual violence in Florida. This particular program included collaboration with state universities, non-profit organizations, health professionals, and local law enforcement agencies.
Florida is one of the nation’s largest recipients of funding for public health programs and initiatives. In 2009 alone, Florida received $221.6 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health. More recently in 2015, Florida has received grants that have included:
- $29.4 million to the University of Miami for public health research
- $28 million to the University of Florida for public health research
- $18 million to 14 separate Florida Department of Health managed research projects aimed at finding a cure for cancer
- $8.4 million to the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter
- $7.1 million to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Center in Tampa
The Face of Public Health in Florida
Promoting and fostering the health and safety of large populations of people requires specialized cohorts of public health professionals working in well-organized, mission-specific campaigns and programs:
Public Safety Education Campaigns
Through decades of experience, Florida’s public health professionals have found that one of the most effective ways to combat many of the state’s most pressing public health concerns is through educational campaigns. The Safe Kids Day Fair held in Tallahassee is just one recent example. Major corporations like FedEx and Chevrolet, along with 13 local Florida-based coalitions helped to promote this event in an effort to educate the public on preventing the leading cause of death for children in Florida: falls, car crashes, fires, and drowning.
Public health educators, directors, and public health journalists were just some of the professionals involved in this campaign.
Health and Wellness Initiatives
Private companies and government agencies recently joined forces to promote National Minority Health Month throughout Florida. This initiative aims to improve the health of minority populations across the state through public awareness campaigns designed to educate populations on:
- Disease prevention
- How to access diagnostic centers that target at-risk minority populations for early detection of treatable illnesses
- The availability of programs that encourage a balanced diet and exercise
Special attention was given to providing a relevant cultural and linguistic context for this initiative.
Health care professionals, public health educators, program managers, nutritionists, dieticians, and public health information officers were just some of the professionals involved with this initiative.
Regulatory enforcement is also important to maintaining health and wellness within a community. Restaurants and hospitality companies hire public health professionals to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal laws when it comes to food safety and other sanitation rules. Local, state, and federal governments also rely on public health regulators and inspectors to detect public health threats in the form of food-borne illnesses, water-borne illnesses, and related dangers. For example, public health professionals recently issued a warning to residents living near the Withlacoochee River because of a stormwater and sewage leak.
Public Health Research and Development
Statisticians, epidemiologists, lab scientists, and other science-oriented public health professionals are involved in ongoing research into a range of important issues, as well as prevention efforts. This was the case with the recent national measles outbreak, in which several confirmed cases of measles were quickly identified in Florida, preventing it from spreading further.
Epidemiologists and statisticians work to track the progression of infectious diseases and design the most effective response to counter these threats. Biologists and other lab scientists work to quickly identify pathogens so the right course of actions can be taken.
Career Progression though Advanced Education in Public Health
While a foundational education through an undergraduate program is often an essential part of meeting initial qualifications for many public health jobs, advancement is often contingent upon more specialized education. That is where a master’s degree in public health comes in. A Master of Public Health (MPH) will often provide the requisite level of education for people who want to progress in any number of fields within the sphere of public health.
In accordance with requirements set by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), all MPH programs must focus on the five core components of public health:
- Social and behavioral sciences
- Health administration and health policy
- Environmental health
Although generalist programs provide a deep understanding of these methodologies, an MPH program can be further specialized with a focused concentration in just one of these areas.
MPH concentrations that are relevant to specialized classes of professionals are shown here to illustrate the full landscape of public health in Florida:
Public Health Advisor – These professionals work with private companies, NGOs, non-profits and governmental organizations to ensure public health efforts are maximized within a given jurisdiction. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Tallahassee was looking to fill a vacancy in this job class, with the job requirements including a master’s degree in public health with specialized experience, or a Ph.D. in a related field.
Research Support Coordinator – these professionals play a vital role in public health, ensuring important research is properly coordinated to ensure its reliability and to ensure research is effectively applied to solving real-world problems. A prominent university in Miami was recently looking for a qualified candidate in this professional classification, specifying that the ideal candidate either held or was working on a master’s degree in Public Health or a related field.
Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse – Employed in both the private and public sectors, RNs and LPNs are part of one of the fastest-growing public health professional classifications in Florida. A statement released by the state’s Department of Health identified registered nursing as the most in-demand profession in all of Florida, with some 7,100 active job openings every year, while LPNs came in ninth with 2,346 annual job openings. These health care professionals are on the medical front line of public health across the state. Advanced practice licensing requires a master’s degree in nursing, which can include a concentration in public health.
Local Public Health Resources
Together these organizations make up a formidable force designed to promote public health across the state of Florida. Public health organizations may be governmental or non-governmental, as is indicated by the following examples:
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection
- Florida Department of Children and Families
- Florida Department of Health
- Florida Conservation Coalition
- Florida Keys Environmental Coalition
- Broward Behavioral Health Coalition
- Florida Council for Community Mental Health
- Central Florida Disaster Medical Coalition
- Miami-Dade County Healthcare Preparedness Coalition
- Suncoast Disaster Healthcare Coalition
- Collier Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition
Private and Non-Governmental Organizations
- Project Response serving the HIV/AIDS community in Florida
- South Florida Cancer Association
- Florida Cancer Registrars Association
- Southeast Florida Cancer Control Collaborative
- Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys
- Florida Water Environment Association
- Environment Florida
- Florida Mental Health Counselors Association
- Mental Health Association of Central Florida
- Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida
- Florida Public Health Association