A successful response to New York State’s most pressing public health concerns involves professionals from many fields and experiential backgrounds. For example, recently the State Agriculture Commissioner and State Health Commissioner announced a program that combined the expertise and skills of public health dieticians and local farmers. Starting in the 2015 season, enrollees in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) dietary supplemental food program are allowed to use their benefits at local farm stands in addition to farmers markets. This will allow children and mothers to have greater access to fresh produce while at the same time supporting local farmers – an example of creative public health solutions in action.
While this new amendment to the WIC program is certainly a forward-thinking solution, innovation is no stranger to public health in New York.
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New York has long been a national leader in public health initiatives and will no doubt continue to lead well into the future. New York offers highly competitive average annual salaries and employment benefits for public health professionals, as indicated by figures from the US Department of Labor released most recently in 2014. The high number of specialists required to develop and implement New York’s public health initiatives creates numerous career tracks and many opportunities for specialization. For many professional classifications, the number of jobs is projected to rise considerably between 2012 and 2022, according to figures released by the New York State Department of Labor:
- Nursing Instructors/Teachers at the college level – 3,920 professionals, third-most in the nation; 35% projected job growth
- Healthcare Social Workers – 11,540 professionals, second-most in the nation; 25% projected job growth
- Community Health Workers – 2,900 professionals, fourth-highest in the nation; 20% projected job growth
- Mental Health Counselors – 5,690 professionals, fifth-most in the nation; 18% projected job growth
- Dieticians and Nutritionists – 4,520 professionals, second-most in the nation; 17% projected job growth
- Health Educators – 4,680 professionals, second-most in the nation; 16% projected job growth
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors – 8,220 professionals, second-most in the nation; 16% projected job growth
- Social and Human Service Assistants – 30,180 professionals, second-most in the nation; fourth-highest average salary in the nation; 13% projected job growth
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers – 10,770 professionals, second-most in the nation; 12% projected job growth
- Medical and Health Services Managers – 27,840 professionals, second-most in the nation; second highest average salary in the nation; 12% projected job growth
- Rehabilitation Counselors – 8,670 professionals, second-most in the nation; 10% projected job growth
- Emergency Management Directors – 570 professionals, third-most in the nation
New York’s Public Health Initiatives in Action
Supporting a strong professional class of public health specialists requires a financial commitment, and this comes both from private investment as well as government grants. In 2009, New York received approximately $809 million in public health grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). More recent NIH grants in 2015 have included:
- $46.57 million to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx to support medical advancements
- $15.43 million to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to support cancer and genetics research
- $2.3 million to the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychological Research in Orangeburg
- $39.38 million to the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York City
- $998,469 to Rheonix Incorporated in Ithaca for molecular diagnostics research
Public health initiatives in New York can take the form of:
Public Health Campaigns
The New York State Department of Health regularly initiates public health campaigns to reduce obesity, help people stop smoking, and promote exercise and healthy eating.
Recently, the Health Commissioner placed a spotlight on a facility in Albany that promotes exercise using modified equipment and fitness machines for people with disabilities.
Another initiative involved an outdoor exercise event at Belmont Lake State Park. Professionals involved with these campaigns include public health educators, dieticians, nutritionists, health professionals, and program directors.
Disease Intervention and Prevention
One of the major goals of public health officials in New York is disease prevention and intervention, as demonstrated recently by the response to a measles outbreak in Dutchess County, as well as controversy over Ebola quarantines in NYC. A major component of disease prevention is public education, which involves many of the same professionals who work with public health campaigns.
Another important aspect of public health in action is disease tracking and treatment. Epidemiologists play an important role in determining cases of exposure and possible transmission, while laboratory scientists, virologists, and other categories of biologists also play an important part in identifying different strains and categories of disease that pose potential public health threats. Healthcare workers are another important constant in the equation, treating those who become sick and helping to manage outbreaks and infections.
During New York’s observance of National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, healthcare professionals provided resources for virus testing, treatment, and education. Minority groups and demographics that were statistically more likely to experience undiagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS received particular attention during this campaign.
Disease prevention also means proactive inspections to ensure food, water, air, and other environmental factors are fit for human habitation and consumption.
Earning a Master of Public Health in New York
To accommodate the range of public health specializations, professionals in this field come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Having a bachelor’s degree is often a general requirement for entry-level careers in the public health sector. More advanced positions, including those in public health policy and administration, often require graduate-level education.
A master’s degree in public health can open doors for professionals who want to advance in their existing career, or otherwise want to begin a new career in the public health sector. Most people interested in transitioning to a career in public health start by earning a Master of Public Health (MPH), as these graduate programs welcome those with a four-year undergraduate degree in any major, even if it is not related to public health.
MPH degrees are offered as general degrees, or with specialized concentrations. In all cases, MPH programs introduce graduate students to the five core public health disciplines, as mandated by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH):
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
- Environmental Health
- Health Administration and Policy
The following examples are provided for illustrative purposes to demonstrate the real-life qualifications that prospective public health professionals need (taken in April of 2015 from job announcements throughout the state):
- Health Specialist with UNICEF – The United Nations agency UNICEF was recently recruiting for this class of professional for a position in Manhattan. Duties would include providing support and capacity-strengthening activities to UNICEF offices in fragile countries around the world. The requirements for this position included an advanced university degree in Public Health, Social Sciences, or Health Economics.
- Project Manager with Public Health Solutions – A non-profit organization, this agency was recently searching for a project manager to develop and implement dynamic solutions to improve community health and prevent diseases. Qualifications for this position included a master’s degree in a field related to Food and Agricultural Systems.
- Epidemiologist with the New York State Department of Health – This class of professional works with local health departments throughout the state to detect, control, and prevent major public health disease threats. There are two ways to qualify for this position:
- Master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, or other Health Sciences field
- Bachelor’s degree with two years of related epidemiological work experience
New York’s Public Health Employers
Because of the breadth of the public health sector in New York, employers can be found at the local, county, state, and national levels. Public health employers include everything from government agencies to non-profit organizations, and even private sector corporations.
Some examples of the many organizations and agencies operating throughout New York include:
- New York State Department of Health (DOH)
- New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
- New York City Department of Environmental Protection
- Erie County Department of Health
- Monroe County Department of Public Health
- Onondaga County Health Department
- New York State Office of Mental Health
- Health Research Incorporated
- DOH AIDS Institute
- DOH Wadsworth Center
- New York State Partnership for Long-Term Care
- New York State Smokers’ Quitline
- Roswell Park Cancer Institute
- New York State Council on Children and Families
Private and Non-Profit Organizations
- New York State Cancer Consortium
- Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester
- Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition
- Mental Health Association of New York City
- New York Mental Health Counselors Association
- New York State Public Health Association
- New York Water Environment Association
- New York State Association for Food Protection