Public health initiatives in Vermont represent a collaborative effort between the Vermont Department of Health, other state agencies, and a number of nonprofit hospitals and organizations. The Department of Health develops programs to combat specific health issues within the state, implementing these initiatives with the help of state and nonprofit organization employees, as well as local volunteers.
An example of this type of collaboration can be found in the Vermont School Program. The program, designed to improve the health of Vermont’s school-aged children, represents a partnership between the state and the following organizations:
- Vermont State School Nurses’ Association
- Vermont Chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Vermont Child Health Improvement Program
- Vermont Principals’ Association
- American Academy of Family Physicians
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In Vermont’s State Health Assessment Plan, entitled “Healthy Vermonters 2020”, the Department of Health outlined the state’s top health priorities for 2013 – 2017. The top three goals they listed were:
- Reducing the prevalence of chronic disease, with a particular focus on healthy eating, physical activity, and reducing cigarette use
- Reducing the prevalence of individuals with or at risk of substance abuse or mental illness, with a particular emphasis on suicide prevention, substance abuse treatment, and limiting underage drinking
- Improving childhood immunization rates
While the state employs a large number of public health professionals, many workers in Vermont’s public health sphere are employed with nonprofit hospitals. Among these men and women are nurses, public health educators, biostatisticians, nutritionists, social workers, laboratory technicians, and epidemiologists, just to name a few. Together, these specialists work to promote the health and wellness of Vermont’s citizens.
Public Health Professionals at Work in Vermont
The diversity of public health initiatives underway in Vermont at any given time creates a need for an equally diverse field of professionals. Public health workers in Vermont come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds.
Job descriptions from recent postings demonstrate the wide range of careers in Vermont’s public health field (2015):
- Public Health Laboratory Program, Chief-Microbiology – Job duties include overseeing a laboratory testing program through planning, administrative, and consultative work for the Department of Health; implementing testing services related to diagnostic, epidemiological, environmental, and scientific matters; and supervising the staff of scientists in the laboratory
- Outreach & Education Coordinator – Job duties include overseeing the company’s education programs and running the web content related to those programs
- Wellness Benefits Counselor – This professional would be responsible for assisting with applications for health care coverage/public benefits, and conducting electronic evidenced-based risk assessments for seniors in the field
- Health Science Specialist – This specialist will oversee a research program, coordinate scientific studies, and work with staff to develop strategies for patient study recruitment
Education for a Public Health Career in Vermont
Whether working for the state as a program specialist or for a nonprofit hospital, the majority of public health professionals in Vermont have a bachelor’s or master’s degree related to their primary function. The various efforts put forth by the state require employees with strong educational backgrounds.
MPH programs recognize undergraduate credits from a bachelor’s degree in any major, making these programs ideal for career changers looking to enter the public health sector.
A degree that is gaining popularity in Vermont’s public health sphere is the Master of Public Health (MPH). The Council on Education for Public Health requires that all MPH programs prepare students in the following core components of public health:
- Environmental Health
- Health Policy and Health Administration
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
With the diverse knowledge attained through MPH programs, graduates are prepared for a diverse selection of jobs in program design and implementation, as well as health policy and administration.
The education requirements for the following job postings in Vermont demonstrate the value of the right degree:
- Prevention Coalition Director – Requires a background in health education, community outreach or communications, with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
- Hunger Council Organizer – Education requirements include a bachelor’s degree and 2+ years experience in a related field
- Public Health Nutritionist – A bachelor’s degree in community nutrition, in foods and nutrition, or in dietetics from a didactic or coordinated program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) is required; also acceptable is a bachelor’s degree in community nutrition, in foods and nutrition, or in dietetics that includes coursework that meets The American Dietetic Association Standards of Education and Standards of Performance for Dietetic Registration
- Dietitian – A bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food and nutrition, food service management, or public health nutrition is required, while a master’s degree in public health, nutrition, dietetics, food and nutrition, or a related area is preferred
- Public Health Coordinator – Qualifications include a minimum of a master’s degree in public health, counseling, student affairs, health promotion or a related field
- Public Health Officer – Candidates must have obtained a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM/VMD), Master of Science in Public Health or Master of Public Health (MSPH/MPH) from an accredited institution
Vermont’s Public Health Employers
Vermont’s Department of Health leads the various public health programs that the state develops. What follows are links to the state’s Department of Health, a few of its subsidiaries, and some of the many nonprofit hospitals in the state that employ public health professionals:
- Vermont Department of Health
- Vermont Department of Health Laboratory
- Vermont Epidemiology and Surveillance
- Vermont Vital Records and Statistics
- List of Public Health District Offices
- Vermont Public Health Association
- Ascutney Hospital
- North Country Hospital
- Grace Cottage Hospital
- Gifford Medical Center
- Fletcher Allen Health Care
- Central Vermont Medical Center
- Brattleboro Memorial Hospital
- Springfield Hospital,
- Southwestern Vermont Health Care
- Rutland Regional Medical Center
- Porter Medical Center, Middlebury, VT
- Northwestern Medical Center
- Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital