With headquarters in Springfield and Chicago, seven regional offices, three laboratories, and more than 1,100 employees, the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) is a finely tuned machine that is responsible for protecting the health and wellness of the people of Illinois through health promotion, prevention, education, policy development and scientific research.
The IDPH and its team of extraordinary public health professionals support more than 200 programs designed to improve the quality of life for Illinois citizens.
Just a few of the programs and services of the IDPH include:
- Childhood immunization
- Chronic and infectious disease control
- Women’s health promotion
- Emergency preparedness
- Food, water, and drug testing
The health and safety of the citizens of Illinois is a central focus for the IDPH and its team of public health professionals. For example, the “We Choose Health Initiative” is a multi-year IDPH program designed to encourage and support the implementation of proactive preventative health programs. Since its implementation, this program has awarded 21 grants, covering 60 counties and impacting almost 3 million people. Nearly $4 million has gone directly to communities to implement programs that address issues such as:
- Improving the quality of screening and treatment for high blood pressure and cholesterol
- Increased physical activity
- Nutrition and access to healthier foods
- Promotion of breastfeeding
- Reduced exposure to second-hand smoke
While other states are slashing their public health budgets, Illinois is investing in theirs. In fiscal year 2013-14, the state public health budget was $308 million, an increase from $287 million in 2012-13 and $289 in 2011-12. Combined with CDC federal funding of $245 million in fiscal year 2013-14, Illinois was able to invest in a number of massive public health programs, such as:
- Chronic disease prevention and health promotion: $27 million
- Birth defects, developmental disabilities, disability, and health: $6 million
- HIV/AIDS prevention: $29 million
- Vaccines for children: $126 million
- Public health preparedness and response: $27 million
The Role of Illinois’ Public Health Professionals
Public health professionals ensure the health and well being of Illinois residents – from epidemiological research designed to track and ultimately control the outbreak of infectious diseases, to the development of regulatory policies that involve screening newborns for genetic diseases and providing vaccinations to protect children against communicable disease. The vital services that the IDPH, its partner agencies and the dedicated professionals that comprise these organizations provide often saves lives and always positively impacts the quality of life for citizens of Illinois.
Countless public health professionals are required to successfully conceptualize, design, develop, implement and administer the public health programs and initiatives in Illinois, and not just those working for the IDPH headquarters or its seven regional offices. Public health jobs are also found through federal partner agencies, non-profits and even in private industry.
Just a few of the professionals who put public health programs into motion and ensure their success include:
- Health Facilities Surveillance Nurse: Conducts investigations into facilities to ensure compliance with state licensure requirements and/or federal certification regulations
- Public Health Program Specialist: Assists in activities related to the statewide immunization registry
- Public Service Administrator: Coordinates the development, implementation, and management of a statewide public health emergency preparedness training, exercise, and evaluation program
The most common public health professionals at the IDPH include:
- Clinical laboratory associates
- Clinical laboratory technicians
- Clinical laboratory technologists
- Environmental health specialists
- Health facilities surveillance nurses
- Health facilities surveyors
- Public health educators
- Public health program specialists
Just a few examples of IDPH programs that are making a difference for Illinois’ citizens include:
- Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program: Offers free breast exams, mammograms, pelvic exams, and Pap tests for all uninsured Illinois women, regardless of income
- Smoke-Free Illinois: Prohibits smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces
- Healthy People 2020: Worksite wellness program designed to increase the proportion of worksites that offer employee health promotion programs and increase the proportion of employees who participate in these programs
- Illinois Action for Children: Ensures that all children in Illinois have access to high-quality early care and education opportunities; serves more than 50,000 families each month
Degree Programs for Illinois’ Public Health Professionals
Education is the foundation for nearly all public health positions, not only in Illinois, but throughout the U.S. The trend for public health professionals has been moving from four-year bachelor degrees to graduate degrees.
Although many professions still view the bachelor’s degree as an entry-level requirement, advancement in this field is often determined by a higher level of education, which is often the Master of Public Health (MPH).
For example, a public health service administrator job with the IDPH reveals a minimum education requirement of a bachelor’s degree in public health, sociology, anthropology, biology, psychology, or epidemiology. Experience in this field is a desirable requirement for this position; many times, a master’s degree such as the MPH can be substituted for experience.
Similarly, a position for a program coordinator for HIV prevention and programming at the Children’s Hospital of Chicago reveals a minimum education requirement of a bachelor’s degree in social work, public health, or a related field, although a master’s degree in social work, public health, or a related field is the preferred requirement.
Public Health Resources in Illinois
Although IDPH is a centralized state health department, public health professionals in Illinois work out of 96 certified local health departments in locations such as:
- Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago
- Adams County Department of Health, Quincy
- Montgomery Health Department, Hillsboro
- Peoria City/County Health Department, Peoria
- Winnebago County Health Department, Rockford
Public health professionals in Illinois also work for non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and private businesses, such as:
- Smart-Tracks Family Center, Park Forest
- Catholic Charities of Chicago
- Access Community Health Network, Chicago
- Children’s Hospital of Chicago
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
- The Heartland Institute, Chicago
- RTI International, Chicago
- EverThrive Illinois, Chicago