Masters Degree Programs for Public Health Careers in Kentucky

Improving the health and wellness of the citizens of Kentucky has become a major focus of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, who has announced health goals that are designed to significantly advance the wellbeing of children, families, and the workforce in the commonwealth.

The work of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) and its many partner organizations (including local health departments, universities, private providers, and nonprofit organizations) has helped ensure these health goals are implemented so that the citizens of Kentucky are afforded access to programs that promote health and safety, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

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The more than 150 KDPH public health programs currently in place are designed to improve the lives of citizens and visitors through the:

  • Prevention of negative health outcomes
  • Promotion of healthy lifestyles
  • Protection from diseases, injury, and environmental health factors

For example, the public health professionals of the KDPH and its partner organizations work diligently to improve the surge capacity of emergency and medical services to ensure capabilities are in place in the event of a wide scale emergency. The KDPH has been successful in meeting surge capacity objectives and hospital preparedness through the Health Preparedness Program (HPP). There are currently 13 HPP coalitions in Kentucky that ensure the protection of Kentucky’s citizens in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.

From public health nurses and environmental health specialists to program coordinators and outreach specialists, Kentucky’s public health professionals are vital to the health and wellness of the state’s citizens and are backed by a budget of more than $140 million annually. Federal funding from the CDC accounted for an additional $81 million. Some of Kentucky’s largest public health programs supported by state and federal dollars include:

  • Vaccines for children: $44 million
  • Chronic disease prevention and health promotion: $11 million
  • Environmental health: $1 million
  • Public health preparedness and response: $9 million
  • Occupational safety and health: $3 million
  • Injury prevention and control: $1.4 million

Kentucky’s Public Health Professionals and the Programs they Support

Although public health programs in Kentucky are vast and the career options are many, all public health professionals have a singular goal in mind: to support the vision of healthy people and healthy communities in Kentucky.

The experts, specialists, and professionals involved in making the KDPH’s programs a reality for the citizens of Kentucky range from scientists to nurses, educators to researchers. Just a few of the countless people who work tirelessly to accomplish the health goals set forth by Governor Beshear include:

  • Public Health Director – Directs the personnel of the local health department in providing a variety of public health services to the community; duties include assessing, planning, organizing, and measuring the performance of public health programs at the county level
  • Administrative Services Manager – Oversees administrative functions that support the overall programs and services of the agency
  • Public Health Officer – Oversees a local health department through planning, organizing, preparing budgets, financial management, and supervising employees
  • Nurse Program Manager – Manages program resources and assures that accurate information is documented appropriately according to program standards and local, state, or federal guidelines; also participates in anti-bioterrorism and emergency preparedness activities

Because of the sheer number of programs and efforts throughout Kentucky in the field of public health, the KDPH relies not only on its team of public health professionals, but experts in public health through outside organizations, as well, including colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and private business.

Just a few of the collaborative efforts between the KDPH and its partner organizations include:

  • The Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening program provides breast and cervical screening and follow-up services, professional education, public education, outreach, quality assurance, and surveillance through contracts between the KDPH and local health care professionals.
  • The Adolescent Health Initiatives (AHI) works in collaboration with multiple partners across the commonwealth to promote adolescent health, including the Kentucky Teen Pregnancy Coalition, the Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group, the Kentucky Stakeholders for HIV/STD Prevention, and the Kentucky Youth Development Partnership.

The KDPH breaks downs its programs as follows:

Programs that Prevent

  • HANDS (Health Access Nurturing and Development Services)
  • Infectious Disease Program
  • Kentucky Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program
  • Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program
  • Kentucky Oral Health Program
  • Newborn Metabolic Screening Program

Programs that Promote

  • First Steps Program
  • Kentucky Physician’s Care Program and Prescription Assistance Program
  • Smoking cessation
  • WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children)

Programs that Protect

  • Communicable disease investigations
  • Environmental inspections
  • Immunization program
  • Kentucky Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention
  • Public Health Preparedness programs

Educational Preparation for Public Health Careers in Kentucky

Professionals in public health must have a foundation of knowledge that allows them to serve as public health champions at the local, state, national, and even international level. This means the educational standard for public health professionals has gradually shifted from a four-year degree to the Master of Public Health (MPH).

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The MPH is designed to provide students with a multidisciplinary education that includes study in the key areas of:

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

Recent KDPH job postings for public health professionals in Kentucky support this trend toward advanced education and the MPH:

Public Health Director: Requires a master’s degree from an accredited college or university in business or public administration, health administration, public or community health, social science, nursing, education, or a related major

Administrative Services Manager: Requires a bachelor’s degree in business administration, public administration, public health, community health, accounting, human resource management, or a closely related major

Public Health Services Coordinator: Requires a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of experience in a public or community health agency; a master’s degree in public health, business administration, nursing, nutrition, epidemiology, or environmental health is preferred and can be substituted for one year of experience

Public Health HANDS Manager: Requires a master’s degree in public health, public administration, or business administration

Public Health Preparedness Manager: Requires a bachelor’s degree in public health, public or business administration, or a health-related field

Public Health Officer: Requires a degree from an accredited school of medicine, the completion of an internship in an approved hospital, and a master’s degree in public health

Likewise, public health jobs through nonprofit and private organizations and businesses in Kentucky are increasingly moving toward the MPH requirement:

Prevention Specialist (Seven Counties Services, Louisville): Requires a master’s degree in a prevention-related field

Data Scientist, Population Health (Humana Inc., Louisville): Requires a master’s degree in computer science, informatics, public health, engineering, statistics, or a related field

Analytics Consultant, Clinical Insights and Outcomes (Humana Inc., Louisville): Requires a bachelor’s degree in statistics, biostatistics, actuarial science, epidemiology, public health, biology, biomedical sciences, or a related field; master’s degree is preferred

Resources for Public Health Professionals in Kentucky

Working in the field of public health in Kentucky may involve working for one of Kentucky’s local public health agencies, such as:

There is also a multitude of opportunities for a rewarding public health career with non-profits, universities and private sector corporations:

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