Public health is defined as the science of protecting the safety and improving the health of communities through education, policy making and research for disease and injury prevention.
The definition of public health is different for every person. Whether you like to crunch numbers, conduct laboratory or field research, formulate policy, or work directly with people to help improve their health, there is a place for you in the field of public health. Being a public health professional enables you to work around the world, address health problems of communities as a whole, and influence policies that affect the health of societies.
Public health involves the application of many different disciplines:
- Public policy
- Computer science
- and others
What do public health professionals do?
As a public health professional, you will be trained to perform one or more of these ten essential services:
- Monitor the health status of a community to identify potential problems
- Diagnose and investigate health problems and hazards in the community
- Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues, particularly the underserved and those at risk
- Mobilize community partnerships to identify and solve health problems
- Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts
- Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety
- Link people to needed personal health services and ensure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable
- Ensure a competent public health and personal health care workforce
- Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services
- Research new insights and innovative solutions to health problems
With a graduate degree in public health, you could work for:
- Government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to name just a few.
- State and local health departments or agencies, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Allegheny County Department of Health, or The Pittsburgh Health Corps.
- Nonprofits, such as the American Red Cross, Planned Parenthood or the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.
- Health care organizations, such as hospital systems and long-term care facilities.
- Private sector companies, such as health insurers and pharmaceutical companies.
- Colleges and universities, such as schools of public health or medicine.
The need for public health professionals
The public health field currently is experiencing a shortage in workers, while the U.S. population continues to grow. This combination is expected to result in a shortage of nearly 250,000 professionals—approximately one-third of the workforce needed to identify, treat, and prevent new and emerging public health threats.