Public health in Georgia is focused on efforts to protect the public’s health and promote wellness equality among its citizens. From nutrition education and fitness and exercise promotion to stress management, maternal health, and pollution control, public health programs in Georgia have been shown to improve the health of Georgia’s population and lower healthcare costs for private employers, residents, and for the state.
In FY2012-2013 alone, Georgia’s state public health budget reached nearly $180 million, or a per capita dollar amount of $20.43. State funding was supplemented by CDC federal funding of $210 million.
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Just a few of the programs that received funding during this time included:
- Chronic disease prevention and health promotion: $21 million
- Infectious diseases: $39 million
- Maternal and child health: $25.5 million
- HIV/AIDS: $94 million
- Environmental health: $969,000
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency for preventing disease, injury, and disability; for promoting health and well-being; and for preparing for and responding to disasters from a health perspective. The DPH was reinstated as an independent state agency in 2011 after more than 30 years of being consolidated with other departments.
Public Health Professionals in Georgia
Collaboration among a vast array of public disciplines helps the DPH accomplish its mission of protecting Georgia’s citizens. Some of the major areas of focus for the DPH include:
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Maternal and child health
- Infectious disease and immunizations
- Environmental health
- Emergency preparedness and response
- Emergency medical services
- Volunteer healthcare
- Office of Health Equity
It is the public health professionals working out of the county health departments that allow the DPH’s programs to flourish. Just a few of the public health professionals making a difference in Georgia’s DPH include:
Health Educator: Health educators are responsible for promoting, maintaining, and improving community health by assisting populations adopt healthy behaviors. Their work involves collecting program data and assisting in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating programs designed to encourage healthy lifestyles, policies, and environments.
Emergency Management Specialist: Emergency management specialists are responsible for overseeing the planning, developing, and implementation of emergency preparedness initiatives and coordinating disaster response or crisis management activities.
Dietician and Nutritionist: Dieticians and nutritionists are responsible for managing and coordinating nutrition and dietetic services for either a region or for multiple facilities. Dieticians and nutritionists also provide technical expertise in nutrition and dietetics to DPH staff and the community.
Public Health Nurse: Public health nurses in Georgia plan, organize, and direct nursing activities and are responsible for the quality of the nursing care delivered in hospitals, public health facilities, and community-based programs.
Social Services Program Coordinator: Social services program coordinators plan, manage, and evaluate social services programs in Georgia. They also identify and coordinate resources and administer and coordinate services and program activities in a wide array of programs, such as youth development, dependency programs, or physical and development disability programs.
Just a few of the public health initiatives spearheaded by the DPH in recent months include:
- The Georgia Diabetes Prevention and Control Program, a public health program funded through a cooperative agreement between the CDC Division of Diabetes Translation, is aimed at helping Georgians live well free of diabetes and its complications and providing access to quality-oriented diabetes care and healthier options.
- The Georgia Student Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) initiative is an initiative aimed at childhood obesity prevention. This childhood obesity prevention effort, overseen by the DPH, includes strategies for addressing obesity from birth through 18, involves a statewide, coordinated effort and multiple partnerships with state government agencies, private foundations, healthcare providers, and private companies, among others.
- The HIV Prevention Program is designed to coordinate the efforts of the Statewide HIV Prevention Planning Group, which implements the Georgia HIV Prevention Plan, as well as an HIV testing program.
- The DPH, CDC, and the National Center for Environmental Health’s Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch has instituted an asthma and allergy initiative called the Georgia Asthma Control Plan (GACP), which is aimed at increasing access to important resources that enable adults and children to manage these conditions and enjoy a better quality of life.
- The Georgia Legislature created the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias (GARD) State Plan Task Force in 2013 to create a state Alzheimer’s disease plan to help the more than 130,000 Georgians living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Today, the DPH collaborates with the state’s 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts to protect the lives of Georgia’s citizens.
Degree Programs for Public Health Professionals
An advanced level of education is common among professionals in public health, both in Georgia and throughout the U.S. The major master’s level education among public health professionals is undoubtedly the Master of Public Health (MPH), which is often a minimum requirement of both DPH public health professionals and public health professionals in the private sector.
Just a few of the private companies in Georgia that employ public health professionals include IHRC, Inc., in Atlanta, a consulting firm that provides scientific, information management, and administrative program support to a number of programs, including the CDC, and SciMetrika, an Atlanta-based population health consulting firm that provides scientific, technical, and logistical solutions that advance human health.
SciMetrika, for example, had a recent job posting for a senior training consultant that required a minimum of a bachelor degree, though they stressed that a master’s degree was highly preferred.
Similarly, IHRC has a recent job posting for a health scientist that required a minimum PhD in biology, microbiology, or a related discipline.
A list of current job openings for DPH jobs also reveals the high level of education expected to secure a position in the public health sector in Georgia:
Epidemiologist: Requires a Bachelor in Public Health; preferred qualification is a Master of Public Health
Operations Manager Strategy: Requires a minimum bachelor’s degree in business administration, although a master’s degree in business, public administration, or a related degree is preferred.
Maternal Child Health Section Manager: Requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related area, although a master’s degree in business, public health, public administration, epidemiology, biostatistics, or a related field is preferred.
Public Health Employers in Georgia
As one would expect, some of the largest providers of public health jobs in Georgia are the county health departments (organized as health districts), such as:
- Northwest Georgia Health District, Rome
- North Georgia Health District, Dalton
- Marietta, Cobb, Douglas Health District
- Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness, Atlanta
- Clayton County Health District, Jonesboro
- DeKalb Health District, Decatur
- North Central Health District, Macon
- East Central Health District, Augusta
- West Central Health District, Columbus
- South Health District, Valdosta
- Southwest Health District, Albany
- Southeast Health District, Waycross
- Northeast Health District, Athens
Just a few of the private and non-profit companies in Georgia that serve as large employers of public health professionals include:
- Georgia Health Policy Center, Georgia State University, Atlanta
- CACI Inc., Atlanta
- McKing Consulting Corporation, Atlanta
- Emory School of Nursing, Atlanta
- American Cancer Society, Atlanta
- Mercy Care, Atlanta
- Eubio Medical Communications, Atlanta
- Open Hand Atlanta, Atlanta
- The Evaluation Group, Atlanta