Evidence of Maine’s commitment to improved health outcomes for its citizens can be found throughout the state, with the most significant gains being made through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
The DHHS, which has an annual budget of more than $3.4 billion and employs more than 3,400 people, serves nearly one-third of all Maine residents, providing health care and social services that support families, the elderly, children, the disabled, people with mental illnesses or substance abuse issues, and the poor.
The overriding mission of the DHHS is to provide integrated health and human services and to assist individuals in meeting their needs. One of the main goals of the DHHS is to make public health services widely accessible through programs and initiatives like:
- The Child and Adult Care Food Program, which ensures proper nutrition in early care settings
- Healthy Homes and the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which provides risk assessments in homes and case management and care services
As of fiscal year 2013-14, the public health budget in Maine was $28 million, with an additional $35 million in funding coming from the CDC. Some of the largest programs during the same period, in terms of funding, were:
- Chronic disease prevention and health promotion: $9 million
- Immunization and respiratory diseases: $2 million
- Public health preparedness and response: $5 million
- Vaccines for children: $12 million
Maine’s Public Health Programs and the Professionals that Support Them
The coordinated efforts of Maine’s public health sector are carried out by experts and specialists from nearly every field, including public health nurses, outreach specialists, program coordinators, emergency response specialists, public health engineers, and disease ecologists, just to name a few.
In addition to being employed by the DHHS, public health professionals in Maine may work for academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses, many of whom coordinate efforts with the DHHS.
Just a few of the specialists who focus their expertise on Maine’s burgeoning public health sector include:
- Regional Policy Specialist: Plans, coordinates, monitors, and implements eligibility rules for numerous public health programs
- Children’s Behavioral Health Services Clinical Social Worker: Combines clinical consultation, supervision, program oversight, and policy development to ensure that youth with behavioral health challenges receive the best services possible
- Senior Planner: Provides professional services work in an assigned area, analyzing and reviewing work participation engagement of all ASPIRE participants
It is these professionals who oversee the many DHSS programs that serve to protect—through safety, health, security, and social programs—the citizens of Maine. Just a few of the recent public health efforts being carried out in Maine include:
- The Maine Center for Disease Control Prevention (Maine CDC), part of the DHHS, is responsible for providing essential public health services that preserve, promote, and protect health. The Main CDC’s State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) focuses on six health priorities, with the first four priorities being subject-specific and the remaining two focused on the public health infrastructure:
- Substance abuse and mental health
- Tobacco use
- Inform, educate, and empower the public
- Mobilize community partnerships
- Maine’s needle exchange program has more than doubled in the last five years, according to the DHHS, pointing to the value of this public health services in the wake of the East Coast heroin epidemic. The report showed that Maine’s needle exchange program has increased by 225 percent in the last four years.
- 6 for ME is an educational quality improvement initiative focused on supporting Maine birth hospitals to adopt at least 6 of the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding, internationally recognized breastfeeding best practices that improve breastfeeding outcomes
Public Health Degree Programs in Maine
Education has long been an essential prerequisite for public health careers, both in Maine and throughout the U.S. Although a four-year college degree is still widely recognized as an entry-level requirement for professionals in public health, senior-level positions and career advancement frequently demand a graduate degree; more specifically, the Master of Public Health (MPH).
The MPH provides students with a solid foundation in the core areas of public health, which include: biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, public health administration, and social and behavioral sciences, all of which are designed to provide a global perspective on public health.
Recent job descriptions for DHHS public health jobs in Maine reflect the trend toward advanced degree requirements and the MPH:
- Regional Policy Specialist: Requires at least 6 years of education and/or experience in a social services setting
- Director, Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services: Requires a master’s degree in public or business administration, healthcare administration, or a related field, along with experience in business, healthcare, or public administration/program management
- Senior Planner: Requires a bachelor’s degree in public or business administration, social services, economics, or a related field
- Director of Social Work: Requires a master’s degree in social work
- Physician State Epidemiologist: Requires a 12-year combination of training and experience in medicine or public health, which must include either four years of experience as an epidemiologist or a master’s degree in public health and six years of experience in the field medicine or public health
Public health job descriptions for professionals outside of the DHHS demand similar educational requirements:
- Policy Director, Consumers for Affordable Health Care: Requires at least 5 years of experience in health care policy, health law, legislative work, and management
- Registered Dietician, SNAP Nutrition Education, Healthy Portland: Requires a bachelor’s degree in food science or human nutrition
- Community Health Outreach Specialist, Sacopee Valley Health Center, Porter: Requires a bachelor’s degree in community/public health education
- Public Health Project Manager, Analytic Insight: The ideal candidate will have a master’s degree of public health, social work, or a master’s or PhD in a field related to public health, program evaluation, or education
- Field Practicum Coordinator, University of New England, Portland: Requires a master’s in public health
Maine’s Public Health Resources
Maine’s public health infrastructure includes state, community, and nonprofit organizations that collaborate to establish and maintain a public health network instead of the classic state model of multiple sub-state departments.
Two city health departments are in place in Maine:
To improve coordinated delivery of essential public health services, the DHHS and the Maine legislature have developed eight public health districts:
- Aroostook, District 8
- Central District 5
- Cumberland District 2
- Downeast, District 7
- Midcoast, District 4
- Penquis, District 6
- Western District 3
- Tribal Health District
- York District 1
Just a few of the private, nonprofit, and academic organizations that support Maine’s public health mission include:
- Healthy Portland, Let’s Go, Portland
- Analytic Insight, Auburn
- University of New England, Portland
- MaineHealth, Portland
- From the First Tooth, Portland
- University of Maine, Orono
- University of Southern Maine, Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy, Portland
- Maine Rural Health Research Center, Portland