The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) defines health as the “optimal state of physical, mental, social, and environmental well-being.” It is the philosophy of the Hawaii DOH that all of the people of Hawaii have the “right and responsibility” to good health, and it is through the tireless work of Hawaii’s public health professionals that the mission of the DOH is carried out.
Public health professionals, regardless of their scope, role, or function in Hawaii’s public health system, are committed to a number of goals, which include:
- The promotion of health and well-being
- The prevention of disease and injury
- The promotion of healthy lifestyles and workplaces
- The strengthening of families and communities
The DOH, along with a vast array of private, non-profit, and federal agencies throughout Hawaii, is committed to the health of Hawaii’s people. For example, in fiscal year (FY) 2011, the DOH proposed the Foundations for Health Generations Initiative, a coordinated effort aimed at addressing the social determinants of health or the conditions under which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. Through this effort, the DOH has been able to make a commitment to drive the public health system and achieve sustainable improvements to Hawaii’s health status.
The DOH has also made significant strides regarding the revitalization of the adult mental health care system in Hawaii. Governor Abercrombie created a Special Action Team that is responsible for working with a variety of agencies to address concerns about the increasing need for quality mental health care services throughout Hawaii’s communities.
Public health funding in Hawaii has remained strong, with the FY2013-14 budget coming in at $219 million ($156 per capita), an increase from $201 during FY2012-13. Federal funding from the CDC to Hawaii in FY2013-14 totaled about $37 million.
Just a few of the public health areas to receive significant funding during FY2013-14 included:
- Chronic disease prevention and health promotion: $8.3 million
- Vaccines for children: $14.7 million
- Immunization and respiratory diseases: $2.3 million
- Public health preparedness and response: $4.9 million
- Primary healthcare: $34.4 million
- Maternal and child: $5.5 million
- HIV/AIDS: $2.9 million
Public Health Professionals at Work in Hawaii
The work of the DOH and related agencies and organizations, including private sector businesses, is made possible through the seamless, coordinated efforts of the professionals in the public health field. From social and behavioral science professionals to public health education and public policy professionals, the number of professionals dedicated to public health in Hawaii is impressive.
To fully understand the scope of Hawaii’s public health efforts, a short list of DOH public health job descriptions is shown here:
- Public Health Educator: Develops public health education programs for bioterrorism response, infectious disease outbreaks, and other health emergencies
- Hawaii’s Pathways Project Coordinator: Provides project coordination for the Hawaii Pathways Project, which is designed to provide accessible, effective, comprehensive, and coordinated treatment services, permanent supportive housing, peer support, and other critical services to the chronically homeless
- Substance Abuse Program Specialist: Responsible for carrying out the operations of the Treatment and Recovery Branch, which includes coordinating, developing, monitoring, and evaluating services and initiatives.
Just a few of the initiatives currently being carried out in Hawaii that are aimed at promoting the health and well-being of the citizens of Hawaii include:
- The DOH, along with the Institutes of Medicine, the University of Hawaii, the Kaiser Foundation, and HBO (Home Box Office) unveiled the landmark television series, “Weight of the Nation,” which was aimed at changing state policies to encourage healthier choices that have direct and long-term benefits to the public.
- The Hawaii Health Initiative’s (HHI) Tobacco Settlement Project is a statewide project designed to prevent and control chronic disease, extend quality years of life, and address health disparities. The HHI builds upon the foundation of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention by promoting policies and programs to create sustainable changes in Hawaii’s communities, schools, and workplaces.
- The Childhood Obesity Prevention Taskforce was created through the work of more than 100 national and local leaders. Last year alone, the HHI funded 9 DOE health & physical education resource teachers to conduct 221 training events for 550 DOE staff.
Degree Programs for Hawaii’s Public Health Professionals
Hawaii’s public health professionals, both through the DOH and private entities, are decidedly well-educated. The majority of positions in the public health sector require, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in an area related to public health or a professional specialty; however, master’s level education—specifically, the Master of Public Health (MPH)–has become the standard for education in public health.
A view of recent job postings for public health professionals in Hawaii speak to the lofty educational requirements demanded of these individuals, all of whom are committed to the public good:
Public Health Educator, DOH: Requires a four-year degree in education, public health, nursing, or a related field, although a master’s degree in public health is considered desirable
Hawaii State Hospital, Nursing Services Manager, DOH: Requires a master’s degree or higher in nursing from an accredited nursing school
Public Health Nutritionist (Level III & IV), DOH: Requires a master’s degree with a major in public health nutrition or in applied human nutrition with coursework in public or community health (biostatistics, epidemiology, health administration, and health planning)
Oral Health Project Manager, DOH: A Doctorate in Dentistry is required
Project Manager, ENCLIPSE (healthcare provider): A bachelor’s degree in business administration, public health, economics, management or industrial engineering, or a related field; a master’s degree in public health, business administration, economics, management, or industrial engineering, or a related field preferred.
Program Manager, Joyful Heart Foundation (establishes healing and wellness programs): A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in non-profit direct service intervention or prevention; a master’s degree in social work, psychology, public health, or marriage/family therapy is strongly preferred
Resources for Public Health Professionals in Hawaii
Public health professionals are essential to ensuring that public health initiatives are successful. From disease investigation and public health nursing to environmental protection and chronic disease management and control, public health professions in Hawaii are critical to the health and well-being of the citizens of Hawaii.
In the State of Hawaii, the majority of public health professionals are employed through the DOH’s district health offices, which are located in:
- Hilo District Health Office
- Kona District Health Office, Kealakekua
- Waimea District Health Office, Kamuela
However, there are a number of non-profit and private companies in Hawaii that also serve as major employers of public health professionals, such as:
- Hawaii Pacific Health, Honolulu
- American Red Cross, Honolulu
- University of Hawaii, Manoa, Office of Public Health Studies
- Dow Agrosciences, Hawaii
- Kaiser Permanente, Honolulu
- Joyful Heart Foundation, Honolulu