Missouri’s professional public health sphere consists of a vast mixture of state, city, and non-governmental organizations working in concert to combat some of the most significant health issues affecting the state’s residents. Given the broad scope of Missouri’s public health initiatives, the state relies on a large number of professionals with diverse specialties ranging from public policy, research and education, to frontline mental health and medical services.
In 2013, The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) published the Missouri Health Improvement Plan 2013-2018 (MHIP), a comprehensive strategy to identify and address Missouri’s most pressing public health issues.
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Through the collaboration of a wide variety of public health workers, the following areas were identified as being in need of significant change:
- Access to health care – With a particular focus on health care affordability, lowering the high rate of uninsured residents, and educating the state’s public on how to live a healthy lifestyle
- Modifiable risk factors – With a particular focus on the state’s high rate of obesity, mental health issues, and the health problems caused by regularly smoking cigarettes
- Infrastructure issues – With a particular focus on improving communication between departments and outside organizations, as well as developing a workforce of qualified public health professionals in everything from emergency management to community health
The Missouri Health Improvement Plan represents a long term, systematic effort to address public health problems within the state. The plan involves all professionals within Missouri’s public health sphere and outlines the specific objectives in place to improve the health of Missouri’s residents.
One specific goal outlined in the plan, for example, is to decrease the prevalence of obesity among adults from 30.2% to 27.2%, and among high school students from 15.4% to 13.8% in the coming years. This effort requires collaboration between the DHSS, the Missouri Council on Activity and Nutrition (MOCAN), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, illustrating the broad range of specialized organizations dedicated to educating and improving the health of Missouri’s residents.
Missouri’s Public Health Professionals at Work
Achieving the public health goals identified in the Missouri Health Improvement Plan 2013-2018 requires specialists from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. While there are a vast number of skill-specific jobs within the field, such as teachers and dietitians, many public health careers in Missouri involve assisting in the communication between different organizations.
Public health professionals in Missouri are often excellent multitaskers, working in their own areas of expertise while maximizing the value of collaboration with other agencies. The variety of jobs in the state’s public health field is vast, both in the public and private sectors. Just some of the many public health careers in Missouri include environmental public health specialists, nutritionists, public health nurses, facility surveyors, adult protective and community workers, laboratory scientists, and supply managers.
Specific examples of public health jobs in Missouri, based on the state’s recent needs, include:
Registered Nurse at the Marshall Habilitation Center: The job requires nurses to, among other duties, provide professional and general nursing care, administer physician-prescribed medicine to patients, provide physical and emotional support to patients, and developing nursing plans based on patient assessment.
Emergency Medical Services Inspector: Examples of job duties include conducting inspections and investigations of trauma centers, EMS practitioners, and ambulance services; coordinating with trauma centers to ensure completeness of required reporting to the Missouri Ambulance Reporting System and the Head and Spinal Cord/Trauma Registry; and evaluating EMS training programs.
Developmental Assistant at Higginsville Habilitation Center: Examples of job duties include observing and reporting the physical and emotional status of patients, assisting clients in emergency situations, and implementing individual and group activities for clients.
A recent job posting for a Health Program Representative, for example, outlined the duties of on an entry-level public health position. In addition to planning, promoting, implementing, and evaluating a public health program, the job requires:
- Working with local public health agencies, schools, communities, health care providers, childcare providers on a number of public health-related programs.
- Presenting project information to various public health groups across the state to better educate them about the program’s objectives.
Another recent job posting for a Public Health Resource Manager at Washington University in St. Louis further demonstrates the collaboration between private and state public health entities. Among the jobs’ requirements:
- Bridging communication between the school and community
- Ensuring the school meets regulatory standards
Degree Requirements for Public Health Jobs in Missouri
Most public health professionals in Missouri have earned either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in their field of work. But in Missouri, perhaps no degree gives workers as much flexibility as a Master of Public Health (MPH). MPH programs are designed to prepare students for the wide variety of challenges they will face in the public health field. Consistent with Council on Education for Public Health requirements, the core components of all MPH programs are:
- Environmental Health
- Health Policy and Health Administration
- Social and behavioral sciences
The collaboration that takes place between the wide variety of public health professionals in Missouri creates many career opportunities for those with a master’s in public health. Many public health projects require a leader with knowledge of multiple fields as represented by MPH program core components. MPH recipients often oversee these collaborative projects, bridging different fields to achieve public health goals.
A recent job posting for a Community Site Coordinator at Brown School, for example, described the various communication requirements of the job, including:
- Building and maintaining relationships between community representatives, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and civic organizations to expand existing community outreach efforts.
- Establishing and maintaining productive and mutually beneficial intensive, formal strategic relationships with selected community partners.
Missouri Public Health Resources
Many MPH graduates in Missouri become employed through the state, as each city and county in Missouri has its own health department. Just a few of the government-sponsored health departments in Missouri include:
- Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
- Louis Department of Health
- Kansas City Department of Health
- Jackson County Department of Health
- Clay County Public Health Center
Because of the vast amount of collaboration between Missouri’s DHSS and outside public health organizations, many public health students find jobs outside of state agencies. Several nonprofit organizations and private companies that employ public health professionals include: