Wisconsin’s public health officials were pointing to the measles outbreak in Disneyland that infected 70 people recently as an example of why Wisconsinites should not take vaccinations lightly. Preventative actions are some of the best tools for promoting public health, and vaccinations are on the top of the list when it comes to disease prevention. Something that may seem as simple as a measles vaccine actually involves a range of public health professionals from government agencies, as well as from the private sector:
- Program managers direct vaccination programs as they are administered at health facilities
- Healthcare professionals like nurses and doctors administer the vaccinations
- Laboratory scientists develop the vaccination
- Epidemiologists track measles outbreaks and identify particularly vulnerable populations in Wisconsin
- Biostatisticians keep track of vaccination supplies, population numbers, and vaccination effects
- Sanitation inspectors ensure public vendors adhere to local and state regulations
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Public health professionals in Wisconsin will find they are working in a state that offers high average salaries and strong job prospects. The following figures are from the US Department of Labor’s most recent report in 2015:
- Mental Health Counselors – South Central Wisconsin offers the highest average salary for these professionals of all rural areas in the nation
- Social and Human Service Assistants – Eau Claire offers the second-highest average salary for these professionals of all cities in the nation
- Epidemiologists – Madison has the third-highest concentration of these professionals of all cities in the nation
- Community Health Workers – South Central Wisconsin offers the fourth-highest average salary for these professionals of all rural areas in the nation
- Health Educators – Eastern Wisconsin offers the fourth-highest average salary for these professionals of all rural areas in the nation
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors – South Central Wisconsin offers the fifth-highest average salary for these professionals of all rural areas in the nation
- Dieticians and Nutritionists – West Central Wisconsin is home to the fifth-highest number of professionals in this field out of all rural areas in the nation
- Nursing Instructors at the College Level – Eau Claire and the Milwaukee area are home to some of the highest numbers and concentrations of these professionals in the nation
Working as a Public Health Professional in Wisconsin
The design and implementation of public health initiatives depends greatly on the funding that is available. Wisconsin’s public health system has benefited from strong funding from both state and federal sources:
- In 2015 Medical College of Wisconsin was awarded a $1 million grant from the state to provide extra help to children with mental health needs
- Towards the end of 2014 the Wisconsin Department of Health Services was awarded a $5 million grant from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- In June of 2014 three non-profit organizations received $441,666 each in grants from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to support community-based substance abuse and mental health services
- In November of 2014 Wisconsin received a $1.2 million grant from the federal Department of Health Services and Veterans Affairs to assist homeless veterans with mental health problems
The range of Wisconsin’s public health jobs in the government, private, and non-profit sectors is as vast as the challenges these professionals face. Some recent actions help to demonstrate the roles of a variety of these public health professionals:
- By the end of 2014 Wisconsin recorded its all-time lowest percentage of adults who smoke – 18 percent. This is good news for the state’s healthcare spending, and is the result of the combined efforts of public health professionals, especially health educators.
- Each winter public health professionals prepare for cold weather by establishing warming shelters, offering opportunities for subsidized heating, and issuing cold weather warnings through public information officers. In winter 2014 this included a warning about carbon monoxide poisoning, which can accumulate in dangerous levels as a result of heating combustion. Carbon monoxide is also considered an environmental containment – environmental health being another important field under the purview of public health professionals.
- Doctors, nurses, health educators, and healthcare professionals are in large part responsible for Wisconsin’s recent ranking as having the fourth-lowest rate of anti-psychotic drug use in nursing homes. Biostatisticians have found that the side effects from over-prescription or unnecessary prescription of anti-psychotics in elderly patients include disorientation and an increased risk of injuries due to falls.
Qualifications for a Career in Public Health
The diversity of career choices in the field of public health means candidates can come from a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds. A foundation for many careers in public health is naturally a degree in this field. While a bachelor’s degree may suffice for entry-level jobs, candidates who want to pursue a long-term career trajectory or make a career change often consider the Master of Public Health.
Schools of public health and universities that offer MPH programs recognize bachelor’s degrees in virtually any major as meeting the undergraduate requirements for a master’s in public health. This makes MPH programs ideal for those who may be changing careers to enter the public health sector
Having an MPH can open up additional career options and allow candidates more versatility between different fields of public health. It can also fulfill the minimum qualification requirements for more advanced positions.
Colleges and universities in Wisconsin offer MPH degrees in both general and specialized forms. The interdisciplinary MPH will cover all of the following subjects, in accordance with Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requirements:
- Social and behavioral sciences
- Environmental health
- Health administration and health policy
MPH programs will also often include options for completion online to accommodate a busy professional schedule.
A May 2015 survey of public health vacancies from across the state revealed the following degree requirements and preferences. These are provided to give candidates illustrative examples of what to expect in Wisconsin’s public health job market:
- Biostatistician II with Quantitative Health Services in Milwaukee – Candidates for this position must have a master’s degree in Epidemiology, OR an MPH, OR a master’s degree in Statistics that includes Biostatistics.
- Natural Resource Economic Development Educator with the University of Wisconsin – To qualify for this position, candidates will need to have at least a master’s degree in a field related to Urban Planning, Community Development, Organizational Development, or Natural Resources.
- Public Health Manager with Chippewa County – Candidates for this position are expected to have a master’s degree, and must have an RN license and experience working as a nurse.
- Data Specialist I with the Clinical and Translational Science Institute in Milwaukee – To qualify for this position, candidates can have at least a bachelor’s degree in Public Health, Social Sciences, Social Work, Library Science, or Basic Science.
Wisconsin’s Public Health Resources
As part of Wisconsin’s broad approach to offering public health solutions, prospective professionals can find employment through organizations such as these:
- Green Bay Northeastern Region Division of Public Health
- Rhinelander Northern Region Division of Public Health
- Milwaukee Southeastern Region Division of Public Health
- Madison Southern Region Division of Public Health
- Eau Claire Western Region Division of Public Health
- Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)
- Mental Health America of Wisconsin
- Prevent Suicide Wisconsin
- School Nutrition Association of Wisconsin
- Tobacco-Free Wisconsin
- Four Rivers Environmental Coalition
Non-Profit and Private Organizations
- Wisconsin Public Health Association
- Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education
- Central States Water Environment Association
- Wisconsin Environmental Health Association
- Wisconsin Health Care Association
- Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition