Public health initiatives in New Jersey represent a collaborative effort between state agencies, non-profits and even private sector corporations, each lending specialized skills to a variety of diverse fields. The coordinated response to a recent outbreak of meningitis at Princeton University is a good example of one of these collaborative efforts.
It took health care professionals to make an initial diagnosis, at which point epidemiologists were called upon to trace the origin and spread of the bacteria, as well as identify and treat individuals who may have been exposed. Public health administrators and program managers in other states collaborated with their counterparts in New Jersey as infections spread to different regions of the country. Biologists and geneticists analyzed the bacteria to determine its genetic fingerprint, and were thereby able to identify its spread to other victims. Finally, public health educators with state health departments and Princeton University conducted an education campaign to raise public awareness about the disease.
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Fortunately, New Jersey is home to some of the best and brightest public health professionals in the nation. Numbers from the US Department of Labor show how New Jersey attracts top professionals by offering both high average salaries and plenty of jobs (2014):
- Epidemiologists – highest average salary in the nation
- Mental Health Social Workers – highest average salary in the nation
- Substance Abuse Social Workers – highest average salary in the nation
- Behavioral Disorder Counselors – 2nd-highest average salary in the nation
- Rehabilitation Counselors – 2nd-highest average salary in the nation
- Substance Abuse Counselors – 2nd-highest average salary in the nation
- Nursing Instructors at the college level – 3rd-highest average salary in the nation
- Mental Health Counselors – 4th-highest average salary in the nation
- Medical and Health Services Managers – 4th-highest average salary in the nation
- Emergency Management Directors – 4th-highest number of jobs in the nation
- Social and Human Service Assistants – 4th-highest number of jobs in the nation
- Dieticians and Nutritionists – 5th highest average salary in the nation
New Jersey’s Public Health Initiatives in Action
Each year, New Jersey’s public health agencies receive millions of dollars to support their efforts. This included $94.4 million in 2009 from the National Institutes of Health, which has been followed up more recently in 2015 with more than $70 million in grants to support public health research, training, and initiative campaigns throughout the state. Recent public health events include:
Environmental Crisis and Monitoring
The 2012 train derailment in Paulsboro exposed the borough’s residents to a carcinogenic gas. Public health professionals at many levels were involved in the response to this incident, including human biologists, emergency management directors, environmental inspectors, emergency management coordinators, and public health information officers.
Officials were involved in evacuating, treating, and monitoring residents, as well as determining the extent of environmental contamination, as the train car that leaked the gas had fallen into a creek.
Infectious Diseases and Epidemic Preparations
One challenge public health professionals can face is the politicization of public health itself, which is not uncommon when dealing with subjects like pollution and regulation – less common is the politicization of epidemiology.
Recently the Governor of New Jersey made what was seen as a political decision to require a mandatory quarantine of people who have been to an Ebola-affected country and who exhibit Ebola symptoms. While this policy was against prevailing medical advice, it nonetheless became the law.
Public health professionals involved in preparing for Ebola included nurses and other health professionals, epidemiologists, public health journalists, hospital directors, and vaccine researchers.
Putting the Master of Public Health to Work in New Jersey
A fundamental qualification for many advanced careers in this sector is a Master of Public Health (MPH). Moreover, the MPH allows dedicated individuals to begin a late-stage career in public health since any four-year undergraduate degree meets the enrollment requirements for MPH programs, even if in a major that is unrelated to public health.
Although MPH degrees are available with specialized concentrations, even general MPH programs are required to introduce students to the five core public health disciplines in accordance with requirements set forth by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).
- Health Administration
- Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health Education and Behavioral Sciences
Still, specialized MPH programs are available in each of these specific concentrations:
- MPH in Biostatistics
- MPH in Epidemiology
- MPH in Health Administration
- MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health
- MPH in Health Education and Behavioral Sciences
Colleges and universities throughout New Jersey offer these programs, with online options to accommodate busy professional and personal obligations. New Jersey residents who pursue MPH programs are often professionals looking to make a career change as well as those already involved in public health who want to advance in their careers.
Because of the wide range of careers in public health, professionals from many different educational backgrounds can find their niche in this field. The following are recent public health job announcements surveyed in April of 2015. These are provided as illustrative examples of the types of careers New Jersey has to offer, and the typical requirements candidates will encounter:
Health Research Analyst – Mathematica Policy Research in Princeton was recently looking to hire this class of professional to conduct independent social policy research in fields like education, health care, labor, and welfare. The minimum requirements for this position included a master’s degree in Public Health, Statistics, Public Policy, or another related field.
Senior Program Officer – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton was recently hiring for this type of professional to lead public health initiatives supported by the Foundation. Duties included program development, leadership, grant writing, and public speaking. The minimum requirements for this position included having an advanced degree in Health Care or a related field.
Epidemiologist – Design Resources Group in Lawrenceville was recently hiring for this class of professional to monitor, analyze, and advise contractors regarding the future prevalence and incidence of infectious diseases. Minimum qualifications for this position included a master’s degree in Public Health, Epidemiology, or a related field.
Local Public Health Resources
New Jersey is home to many organizations that are involved in public health promotion, activism, and research. These organizations are found across the public and private spectrum. Some examples include:
New Jersey Government Agencies
- New Jersey Department of Health
- City of Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness
- Paterson Department of Health and Human Services
- Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services
- Mercer County Division of Mental Health
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
- New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS)
- DHS Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services
- Public Health Research Institute
- Association of New Jersey Environmental Coaltions
- Jersey Voice
- New Jersey Community Resources
Non-Governmental Organizations and Private Companies
- Mental Health Association in New Jersey
- South Jersey Breast Cancer Coalition
- Garden State Equality
- New Jersey Public Health Association
- New Jersey Counseling Association