Professionals from non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, and the private sector combine their skills and resources to tackle North Carolina’s most pressing public health challenges. A multifaceted approach is the only way to effectively respond to major public health threats like pandemics, contamination, pollution, and preventable diseases. In one recent coordinated effort, doctors and pharmacists have been working with public health educators and biologists to warn state residents about the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These public health professionals have put together a campaign to encourage North Carolina’s residents to use fewer non-essential antibiotics and antibacterial products.
To attract a talented pool of public health professionals, North Carolina offers benefits that rank nationally, such as a high average salary. North Carolina’s public health sector also supports a relatively high number of jobs. The US Department of Labor has identified the following notable figures:
- Epidemiologists – North Carolina offers the second-highest average salary in the nation for these professionals
- Environmental Scientists and Environmental Health Specialists – North Carolina is home to the fourth-highest number of these professionals in the nation
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers – Western North Carolina has the highest concentration and highest number of these professionals of all rural areas in the nation
- Nursing Instructors at the college level – Western Central North Carolina is home to the third-highest number of these professionals of all rural areas in the nation
- Emergency Management Directors – Western North Carolina has some of the highest average salaries and employment numbers for this class of professional of all rural areas in the nation
- Healthcare Social Workers – Rural portions of North Carolina have some of the highest numbers of healthcare social workers when compared to all other non-metro areas in the nation
- Community Health Workers – Non-metro Northeastern North Carolina offers the third-highest average salary for these professionals when compared to all other rural areas in the nation
North Carolina’s Public Health Professionals in Action
State and federal funding is available for a wide variety of programs designed to improve public health throughout North Carolina. For example, in 2015 the state’s Department of Health and Human Services was offering these grant opportunities to public agencies, private enterprises, and non-profit organizations:
- $63,063 to provide services to blind residents that help them to maintain employment
- $32 million to provide employment services and career counseling to state residents with disabilities
- Capital Project Grant for rural health centers to provide funding for daily operations and essential functions
- Community Integration Grant to promote and support independent living facilities for disabled members of the state’s community
Through collaboration and proper funding important strides can be made, as is evident in these recent examples of public health initiatives:
Infectious and Preventable Diseases
In 2014 there were more than 850 diagnosed cases of illness in North Carolina caused by ticks and mosquitoes.
Biologists, public health environmentalists, epidemiologists, and public health educators recently joined forces to educate the public about tick and mosquito diseases. These public health professionals hope to limit exposure and track concerning outbreaks with the public’s help.
Exercise and Health Promotion
Public health professionals have identified breastfeeding as an important way of providing babies with a strengthened immune system and nutritious diet.
Public health nutritionists, physicians, public health educators, private childcare businesses, and program directors recently combined forces to encourage mothers with young children to breastfeed in lieu of using formula. The state’s Department of Public Health encouraged this initiative by awarding certain daycare centers with a “Breastfeeding-Friendly” designation.
Earning a Master’s in Public Health
Having a degree in Public Health is one of the most basic qualifications aspiring professionals can obtain when considering a lifelong career in this field. A bachelor’s degree is often an entry-level requirement.
Having a master’s degree can open higher-tier career opportunities for professionals interested in advancement, as well as for experienced professionals who are transitioning to a new career path. Master of Public Health (MPH) programs accept a bachelor’s degree in any major as meeting undergraduate requirements for enrollment, making these programs ideal for those looking to begin a career in public health at a later stage in life.
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requires all MPH programs to include coursework that covers the five core public health disciplines:
- Behavioral and Social Sciences
- Environmental Health
- Health Administration and Policy
Additionally, specialist programs are available with concentrations in these disciplines.
While an MPH is a valuable and competitive asset, there are also many other relevant degree programs that prospective public health professionals can explore. The following are examples of public health job opportunities and requirements taken in April of 201(shown here for illustrative purposes):
Epidemiologist with the North Carolina Division of Public Health – This class of professional applies epidemiological principles to address and reduce public health threats.
This entry-level position requires candidates to have a master’s degree in Epidemiology, Public Health Administration, Public Health Education, or a related field.
Quality Assurance Analyst with Alliance Behavioral Health – Located in Durham, this class of professional analyzes data from multiple counties to identify trends and respond by offering the most efficient and effective remedies.
The minimum requirements for this position include at least a bachelor’s degree in Public Health, Public Administration, Sociology, Mental Health, Psychology, or a related field.
Scientist II with ImmunoReagents Inc – Located in Raleigh, this biomanufacturing company was looking for a laboratory scientist to work with antibodies, antigens, and enzymes to create biotechnology products that may advance public health in North Carolina.
Minimum qualifications included a bachelor’s degree in Biomanufacturing, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, or a related field, with at least three years of post-graduate experience.
Resources for Aspiring Public Health Professionals in North Carolina
There are numerous public, private, and non-profit organizations providing invaluable resources for residents of North Carolina. These range from mental health organizations to environmental testing agencies. Some examples include:
- North Carolina Division of Public Health
- North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
- North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- North Carolina Office of Rural Health and Community Care
- State Laboratory of Public Health
- Mecklenburg County Health Department
- Wake County Division of Public Health and Clinics
- Guilford County Health Department
- Durham County Department of Public Health
- Forsyth County Department of Public Health
- North Carolina HIV Medications Program
- Project Commit to Protect to prevent HIV/AIDS
- North Carolina Project Care
- Prostate Cancer Coalition of North Carolina
- Cervical Cancer-Free North Carolina
Private and Non-Profit Organizations
- National Alliance on Mental Health North Carolina
- North Carolina Psychological Association
- North Carolina Public Health Association
- Autism Society of North Carolina
- The Arc of North Carolina
- Addiction Professionals of North Carolina
- North Carolina Counseling Association