In light of the global pandemic at the time of writing, people are increasingly realizing the importance of our health workers and their valorous contributions to society. If you consider yourself to be brave and selfless then you, too, can make your contribution in the area of Public Health and be a cape-less hero in your community.
What is Public Health?
Public Health is concerned with health, well-being and illness prevention from a broad perspective. It focuses on disease prevention and overall improvement of human life. This is contrasted to hospital doctors and GPs who primarily look after individual patients on a case by case basis.
Careers in Public Health
Needless to say, this is a broad field as health is impacted by many factors. To make it simpler, this field can be split into three domains:
Health protection – this is concerned with protecting the population’s health by ensuring that environmental risks are minimised. For example, you could work to prevent the outbreak of epidemics, plan responses to emergencies, or work in food safety.
Health improvement – this is concerned with helping people to improve their own health, and therefore preventing illnesses from developing in the first place. You might be involved in campaigns to encourage healthier eating, physical exercise, or to persuade people to quit smoking and taking drugs.
Healthcare public health – this is concerned with making sure that everyone has access to the high quality health services and medicines that they need, when they need them. This could be a government or local authority policy role, or humanitarian work in developing countries.
Here is a list of public health careers:
- Environmental health practitioner – protect and improve the environments in which people live and work, and protect public health by minimizing health & safety hazards and ensuring conditions are safe and hygienic.
- Epidemiologist – search for the cause of diseases, identify people who are at risk, determine how to control or stop the spread or prevent it from happening again.
- Health and safety adviser – use their knowledge and skills to promote a positive health and safety culture in the workplace.
- Health promotion specialist – help people to improve their health and increase their control over it. You could also be known as a health education specialist or health improvement practitioner.
- Health visitor -work with parents who have new babies, offering support and informed advice from the ante-natal period until the child is around 5 years old.
- Nutritionist – teach and inform the public and health professionals about diet and nutrition with an aim to promote good health and prevent disease in individuals and communities.
- Registered nurse – administers hands-on patient care by treating patients and providing advice and emotional support to them and their families
- Public health manager – oversee the non-clinical operations of a public health organization such as a hospital, health department, or medical facility.
- Vector Control Specialist – reduce diseases by targeting vectors that transmit and spread diseases such as rodents, insects or plants.
There are some careers that are not technically considered a public health career, but do contribute to public health in some way through their actions. Some of these careers are pharmacists, midwives, doctors, general practice nurses, dentists, and sports & fitness staff.
The job requirements for this field are mainly dependent on the particular career that you choose. However, a bachelor’s degree in Public Health is a good idea for any of the above options- it can be your starting point from which you go on to specialize in your chosen career. Careers is Nutrition, Epidemiology and Environmental health have their own degrees with the same names, and so if you are interested in any of these careers, you would have to pursue degrees in the respective areas.
For some careers (especially leadership roles like public health consultant) you may find that a Master’s degree is necessary. You can obtain a Master’s degree in Public Health or another related concentration to give you an advantage.
As for skills, some soft skills and competencies that would help you in the Public Health field are:
• Communication and presentation
• Efficiency and patience
• Having a good work ethic
• Management and leadership
• Organisation and multitasking
• Being dependable and motivated
• Research and analysing data
• Strategising and planning
• Stress management and resolving problems
• Team work and professionalism
We also must emphasize the need for commitment and dedication to the well-being of others that this field requires.
How to Stand Out
There is a plethora of certifications in the public health field that can surely set you apart and help you stand out. Some are more introductory while others can be used to compliment your degree. More basic certifications that you can obtain even before you begin your degree studies are in things like First Aid, CPR and public health & safety. More advanced certifications can be obtained in Epidemiology, Public Health Management and Asthma education.
Get Hands-On Experience
Gaining work experience is also essential in this field and doing so before hand will definitely give you an edge in job searching and career advancement. You can volunteer with public health related charities and organisations like the Turks & Caicos Red Cross.
Another great option for work experience in health is the internship program at Interhealth Canada TCI. This is an excellent opportunity to get an idea of what full time work in this field would be like while getting some hands-on knowledge. The Clinical Exploration Program also provides amazing opportunities across different health careers as they have partnered with a number of offices to provide internships to young people interested in the field – you can find them here.
It never hurts to put yourself out there and apply to as many places as you are able to. Other offices you can approach for work experience are the Environmental Health Department office, National Epidemiology and Research Unit, and Health Promotions and Advocacy Unit. You can find contact information for all of these offices and more at the Ministry of Health’s website here.
Fun fact – There is a “World Toilet Organisation” that is run by “Mr. Toilet”
Learn how to pursue a career in Public Health within these regions
The CDC has many informative videos on YouTube that you can use as a starting point or to explore your interest in this area before beginning formal education.