Masters Degree Programs for Public Health Careers in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), working with municipal-level partner organization, policymakers, healthcare providers, and businesses, fulfill the mission of promoting and protecting the health of Iowa’s citizens.

Through the work of the IDPH and its partner agencies, citizens in Iowa are afforded services through initiatives designed to:

  • Prevent epidemics and the spread of disease
  • Protect against environmental hazards
  • Respond to and recover from public health emergencies
  • Prevent injuries
  • Promote healthy behaviors
  • Strengthen the state’s public health infrastructure
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For example, the IDPH and its partner agencies have a number of programs in place to combat cancer, two of which are:

  • Iowa Care for Yourself Program – Contracts with local health care providers and boards of health to provide screening services to uninsured, underinsured, or underserved women
  • Iowa Get Screened: Colorectal Cancer Program – Works with community partners and healthcare providers to provide colorectal cancer screening services to uninsured or underinsured residents

Just a few of the areas of public health that are addressed through widespread, collaborative programs in Indiana include:

  • Behavioral health
  • Disease prevention and management
  • Emergency response
  • Environmental health
  • Family health
  • Health care access
  • Immunization
  • Lead poisoning prevention
  • Nutrition
  • Oral health
  • Multicultural and minority health
  • Tobacco use prevention and control

The work of Iowa’s extensive consortium of public health professionals, both within the IDPH and through state partner agencies, is made possible because of state and federal funding. As of fiscal year (FY) 2013-14, Iowa’s state-allocated funding for public health projects was $58 million, with federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contributing $66 million more.

The largest proportion of state public health budget dollars was reserved for work in the following areas:

  • Chronic disease and health promotion: $9 million
  • Immunization and respiratory disease prevention: $6 million
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: $5 million
  • Vaccines for children: $27 million

Iowa’s Public Health Professionals at Work

The IDPH is organized into local boards of health, which operate with the authority to decide what public health services to provide within their jurisdictions and how best to provide them. As a result, the size and structure of local public health agencies and the services they provide vary greatly.

All local boards of health in Iowa work with government and non-governmental agencies, businesses, healthcare providers, and others to assure public health services are readily accessible in their jurisdiction.

Along with state and local government employees, Iowa’s public health system employs more than 890 private sector contractors to provide critical services through a variety of organizations:

  • County boards of health
  • Community-action programs
  • Public health nursing agencies
  • Maternal and child-health agencies
  • Substance abuse prevention agencies
  • Emergency medical service providers
  • HIV/AIDS prevention and care providers

Just a few of the initiatives being carried out by the IDPH and its contractors that show the extensive, collaborative efforts in Indiana include:

Iowa Comprehensive Cancer Control Program: Collaborates with the Iowa Cancer Consortium and state partners to implement a state cancer control plan

Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program: Provides universal newborn hearing screening, short-term follow-up, and referrals to early intervention and family support services

Iowa Newborn Screening Program: Conducts newborn testing and follow-up for metabolic disorders and cystic fibrosis

Early Childhood Iowa: Oversees comprehensive plans that serve as a framework for Iowa’s early childhood system; programs include:

  • 1st Five Program – Ensures quality social, emotional, and developmental screenings of children under the age of 5
  • Healthy Child Care Iowa: Supports the health and safety of children enrolled in early care and education programs through nurse consultation, health education, and health services referrals
  • Project LAUNCH: Ensures Iowa’s children from birth through age 8 are thriving in a safe and supportive environment and are ready to learn when they enter school

Job descriptions for just a few of the talented and motivated professionals that work tirelessly to deliver public health services to all Iowans include:

Environmental Health Specialist: Performs field work related to the enforcement of laws, regulations, and standards concerning safe drinking water, food safety, private sewage disposal systems, toxic substances, solid waste, and general sanitation

Public Health Nurse Leader: Uses leadership skills and connections with key influencers in organizations and communities to build and spread a culture of health across the country

Health Director: Provides leadership and vision to meet public health needs, communicate and coordinate with community partners, and oversee all aspects of public health operations

Disease Prevention Specialist: Performs investigative and educational work involving disease control and prevention, as well as immunization activities

Getting the Right Education for a Career in Public Health

Public health professionals virtually always hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree related to their field of expertise. However, working to resolve the most pressing public health concerns often calls for an interdisciplinary degree such as a master’s in public health.

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In keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of modern public health initiatives, the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requires that all MPH programs include courses in the five core public health disciplines:

  • Biostatistics
  • Health service administration
  • Environmental health sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Social and behavioral sciences

Schools of public health and universities that offer MPH programs recognize bachelor’s degrees in virtually any major as meeting the necessary undergraduate requirements for enrollment. This makes MPH programs ideal for those who may be changing careers and entering the public health sector.

The value of the MPH and other relevant degrees is evident through recent job postings for public health professionals in Iowa:

Disease Prevention Specialist: Requires a bachelor’s degree in public health, nursing, epidemiology, social work, health education, counseling, or a closely related field; additional education and experience in public health or epidemiology is preferred

Environmental Health Specialist: Requires a bachelor’s degree with major coursework in the natural or physical sciences or a related field, along with education and experience in the areas of public health, environmental health, or a related field

Health Director, public health department: Requires a master’s degree in public health or a related field, along with experience leading a public health agency in which program and funding considerations were necessary

Iowa’s Public Health Resources

State and local health departments are the primary employers of public health professionals. An abbreviated list of county health departments in Iowa includes:

Outside of the IDPH, public health employers often include private sector corporations and other organizations:

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