According to West Virginia University, a leader in West Virginia’s current public health sphere, state residents are contracting chronic disease at such a rapid rate that the health care costs of public and private payers could double by 2018. Fortunately, there are a large number of state and nonprofit organizations fighting for the public health of West Virginians through a variety of programs and services.
The majority of public health programs and initiatives within West Virginia stem from two main organizations: the state’s Bureau for Public Health (BPH), a subdivision of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the West Virginia United Health System (WVUHS).
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In fiscal year (FY) 2013-2014, the BPH handled a state budget of $111,761,920, implementing a number of educational and direct outreach services for the public. WVUHS typically exceeds $1.5 billion in annual revenue, allowing their copious subdivisions – ranging from health centers to pharmacies – to focus on the specific health issues that affect West Virginians.
Within West Virginia’s large public health groups are professionals from a variety of backgrounds. Public health workers in the state include disaster program specialists, health officers, psychiatrists, medical personnel, epidemiologists, and many more. This diverse group of professionals makes up the united effort to ensure the health of West Virginia’s citizens.
Public Health Professionals at Work in West Virginia
Given the multidisciplinary approach of the BPH and the WVUHS, public health professionals from a wide range of areas of expertise work in concert to achieve common goals. In addition to possessing job-specific skills, many professionals in the state must develop the teamwork skills necessary to collaborate with outside departments and agencies. Job descriptions posted in 2015 demonstrate just some of the daily duties of the many public health workers in the state.
- Health and Human Resources Office Director – Job duties include improving the state’s emergency medical service system. The job requires working with the Department of Health and Human Resources,(DHHR), and other state agencies, the legislature, governor’s office, local EMS agencies, the emergency medical services advisory committee, the state interoperable radio network, health professional associations, health facility representatives and others.
- Disaster Program Specialist – A disaster program specialist would be responsible for the implementation of the disaster services program in an assigned geographic territory. Specifically, the job requires leading volunteers and working with government partnerships.
- Health Educator – Job duties include providing nutrition education for families and communities, as well as overseeing fiscal resources for nutrition education programs.
The Value of Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in West Virginia
The massive public health initiatives of the BHS and the WVUHS, as well as West Virginia’s private health institutes, requires highly educated professionals in all fields of public health. The interdisciplinary Master of Public Health (MPH) prepares graduate students with a deep understanding of the five core public health disciplines: biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, health policy, health administration, and social and behavioral sciences.
Consistent with Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requirements, all MPH programs must cover these five disciplines. In addition to these core requirements, many MPH students choose MPH programs with a concentration in one of these core areas, or specific to other career paths.
MPH programs accept all accredited four-year undergraduate degrees as meeting the general undergraduate requirements for admission, making these program a perfect fit for those changing careers to enter the field of public health.
The value of a master’s in public health, as well as other relevant degrees and majors related to public health, is illustrated in a sample of job requirements seen in recent postings.
- Program Specialist – Master’s degree in public health, public administration, political science, women’s studies, international relations, business, communications, or other related fields is required; OR an equivalent combination of education and experience
- Account Management at Beacon Health Strategies – Master’s degree in business administration, public administration, public health, or behavioral health required
- Child Care Health Educator – Bachelors degree in health education, public health, health science, education, child development, or related degree required
- Physician Director – Requires two years of experience in the practice of medicine or osteopathy which can include experience in a post-graduate training program, but a master’s degree in public health, health administration, hospital administration, public or business administration may substitute for the required experience
West Virginia’s Public Health Employers
West Virginia’s DHHS employs nearly 6,000 public health workers, making state employment a viable option for new and advancing public health professionals. In the nonprofit realm, the WVUHS is the state’s second largest employer, providing roughly 25 percent of West Virginia’s inpatient hospital care. West Virginia is also home to several private organizations that employ public health professionals.
- ABLE Families
- Alzheimer’s Association, WV Chapter
- Beacon Health Strategies
- Charlestown Area Medical Center
- Mary’s Medical Center
- WVU Healthcare
Hospitals Under Proprietary Ownership
- River Park Hospital
- Bluefield Regional Medical Cente
- Logan Regional Medical Center
- Plateau Medical Center
- Greenbrier Valley Medical Center