According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), Massachusetts ranks among the healthiest states in the U.S. according to comparative analyses of all states – but there are still many public health issues that must be addressed here.
From chronic and infectious disease, to substance abuse, violence, preventable hospitalizations, and health disparities, public health concerns are the focus of the work the 24,000 public health professionals of the DPH and its 17 agencies perform.
The mission of the DPH is to:
- Prevent illness, injury, and premature death
- Provide access to high-quality health and healthcare services
- Promote wellness and health equity
The DPH accomplishes its mission by:
- Coordinating programs and policies that address specific conditions and diseases
- Developing, implementing, promoting and enforcing regulations and policies to assure that conditions in which people live are conducive to health
- Enabling people to make healthy choices for themselves and their families
- Offering services to address the needs of at-risk populations
The state public health budget, which stood at $377 million in FY2013-14, helped fund a wide range of public health initiatives, along with CDC funding of $138 million and HRSA funding of more than $207 million. Some of the largest programs in terms of funding during this time included:
- Chronic disease and health promotion: $19.3 million
- HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, STI and TB prevention: $17 million
- Public health preparedness and response: $13.4 million
- Vaccines for children: $56 million
The Public Health Professionals of Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ public health jobs are varied and plentiful, and careers range from healthcare, social work, nursing, and mental health to policy and office program administration, just to name a few. Just a few of the professionals who fulfill valuable roles in public health in Massachusetts include:
- Regional Emergency Preparedness Coordinator: Facilitates emergency response planning as part of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program for one of MDPH’s emergency preparedness regions.
- Research Analyst: Supports health information exchange efforts, provides technical support and assistance, and provides analyses of infectious disease surveillance data
- Environmental Analyst: Performs day-to-day bio-monitoring activities in the Bureau of Environmental Health Environmental Toxicology Program
DPH professionals and their partners in the academic, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors have implemented a wide array of public health programs aimed at the health and safety of Massachusetts’ citizens:
- The Olmstead Plan, which was originally created in 2008, ensures that residents with disabilities and elders have access to community living and long-term support that address their individual and diverse needs, abilities, and backgrounds.
- The Epidemiology Program was created to protect the residents of Massachusetts from infectious diseases, foodborne illnesses, and other communicable diseases.
- The Occupational Health Surveillance Program was created to promote the health, safety, and quality of life of working people in Massachusetts.
- The Massachusetts Food Protection Program was created with the Bureau of Environmental Health to ensure a safe and wholesome food supply in Massachusetts.
- The Immunization Program is committed to promoting the health of Massachusetts’ citizens by reducing the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases that affect residents of Massachusetts.
- The MDPH Family Planning Program was created to reduce unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates by improving access to high-quality education, outreach, and clinical services through a statewide provider network and related specialty projects.
Earning a Master of Public Health in Massachusetts
Public health degree programs at the graduate level are decidedly focused on the Master of Public Health (MPH). The MPH is appropriate for a variety of career paths, given its core foundation in the areas of biostatistics, social and behavioral determinants of health, epidemiology, biological sciences, management sciences, practice/problem-solving, and environmental health. Students earning an MPH may choose to customize their curriculum plan, as well, making the MPH a standard among public health professionals.
Program customization may be in areas such as health leadership and management, infectious diseases, child and adolescent health, food and nutrition, and global environmental sustainability and health, just to name a few.
Recent descriptions for jobs within the DPH reveal this trend toward advanced degrees like the MPH:
- Regional Planner: Requires a bachelor’s degree with a major in urban planning, environmental sciences, landscape architecture, or a related area of study; a graduate degree in one of these areas may be substituted for the required experience
- Public Health Nursing Advisor: Requires at least four years of experience as an RN in a public health nursing or community health nursing setting; a graduate degree with a major in public health nursing, community health nursing, or public health may be substituted for some of the required experience
Public health jobs outside of the DPH often have similar degree requirements:
- Project Specialist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Cambridge: Requires a bachelor’s degree, although a master’s degree in public health, healthcare management, or a related field is strongly preferred
- Research Assistant, Cambridge Health Alliance, Somerville: Bachelor’s degree is required, although a master’s degree in a health related field is preferred
- Quality Improvement and Training Manager, Upham’s Corner Community Health Center, Boston: Requires a relevant clinical services background; an MPH, MS, or MBA and a background in public health or healthcare management is preferred
- Research Assistant, Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, Boston: Requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although a Master of Public Health is preferred
Resources for Public Health Careers in Massachusetts
The most obvious source for public health jobs in Massachusetts is the DPH, which has local health agencies throughout the state. Just a few of the health departments in Massachusetts that employ public health professionals include:
- Cambridge Public Health Department
- Concord Health Department
- Worcester Department of Public Health
- Boston Public Health Commission
There are also a multitude of professional opportunities in public health outside of the DPH in organizations such as:
- New England Public Health Training Center, Boston University
- Massachusetts Adult Immunization Coalition
- Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Boston
- Community Health Connections Family Health Centers, Leominster
- Massachusetts General Hospital, Disparities Solutions Center, Boston