Public Health As A Career

By- Dr. Gazala Hitawala, MBBS

Are you wondering what is the scope of working in the Public Health sector? Are you interested but scared that there are no opportunities for you? Do you often wonder where to get those jobs which can get your foot into the door? We have got you covered here, get ready with a pen and paper to take notes because you are going to get a fool-proof roadmap to make public health your career. 

Public health deals with measures of improving the health conditions of the community. These teams perform the root cause analysis for every healthcare-associated situation and work towards it by spreading awareness and education. Keep in mind that behind these 2 lines there are a lot of people from different sectors involved to achieve the set goals. This means there are equivalent opportunities to work in the Public Health sector. 

Without further ado let us get straight into the pathway. 

What educational qualifications do you need?

There is a wide range of opportunities under public health, ranging from First responders to public policymakers. To be a part of the system, one should have a minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree in any of the following:

  • Biology
  • Sociology
  • Public health 
  • Medicine 
  • Engineering
  • Anthropology
  • Business

Moreover, a master’s degree in public health helps in securing higher jobs in the department. 

Some of the colleges offering MPH (Masters Public Health)  in India are: 

  • Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar
  • Jawaharlal Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  •  Manipal University, Manipal
  • IIMT College of Paramedical Education, Agra Manipal School of Allied Health Sciences (SOAHS) – Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences, Manipal
  • School of Public Health – All India Institute of Medical Sciences (SPH-AIIMS), Jodhpur
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, (TISS) Mumbai
  • Savitribai Phule Pune University: School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Pune

According to a 2018 study, India has been lacking in training individuals in the public health sector. While there are numerous institutions established around the country for degree courses in public health, there are not enough opportunities to provide them a stable career path. This is not because the country has an optimally functional public health system already in place, but this is because of limited attention and investment in these departments. As a result, that and the supply and demand ratio of the graduates is not fulfilled. Looking at such a scenario, it is naturally expected that the youth might hesitate to choose it as a career path. But the story does not end here, there are numerous opportunities waiting outside the country. 

Top Universities for Public Health in the USA:

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Harvard University
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • Cornell University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Michigan
  • Columbia University
  • University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Boston University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of San Francisco

Apart from a direct public health degree, medical professionals can also go in for residency training in preventive medicine (which is a sub-branch of public health). There are over 113 programs in the United States that offer residency training in preventive medicine. 

  • United States Army School of Aviation Medicine Aerospace Medicine Program
  • Loma Linda University Health Education Consortium Public Health and General Preventive Medicine Program
  • University of California (San Diego) Medical Center/San Diego St Univ Public Health and Gen. Prev. Med. Program
  • University of California (San Francisco)/University of California School of Public Health University of California (Irvine) Program
  • University of California (San Francisco) Occupational Medicine Program
  • Loma Linda University Health Education Consortium A Occupational Medicine Program
  • California Department of Public Health Public Health and General Preventive Medicine Program
  • UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine/UCLA Medical Center Public Health and General Preventive Medicine Program
  • University of Colorado School of Medicine Public Health and General Preventive Medicine Program
  • University of Colorado School of Medicine A Occupational Medicine Program
  • Yale-New Haven Medical Center Occupational Medicine Program
  • Griffin Hospital Public Health and General Preventive Medicine Program

Other countries that can be explored for Public Health training are – UK, Canada, Australia

Where does a Public Health graduate work?

I know that the first name that comes to your mind is WHO, but you will be surprised to know that there are many more renowned institutes that have an abundance of opportunities for you. 

  • CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) – This is a federal institution that responds to outbreaks through immediate action plans. 
  • NIH (National Institute of Health) – The NIH is related to research in the field of health and medicine. It receives funding from the government for various research and studies. 
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) – These focus more on specific issues related to health and public safety. Some of the non-profit organizations are Red Cross, WHO, etc. 
  • Academic and Educational – Postgraduates can eventually become professors in universities. This work mostly involves giving lectures, training, research, etc. 

At this point, all these fancy job titles might look like far-fetched goals to you. So, what can you do as a medical student to jump onto this path?

What can a medical student do to get into Public Health?

As a medical student, your curriculum involves preventive medicine, which is the first door you should knock to get on the track of public health. To explore your interests in the public health sector, take initiative by volunteering in various healthcare campaigns, awareness and education, vaccination programs, etc. This gives you a dual advantage, you get to explore your interest, and meanwhile, you are building your CV. 

Other ways are to take advantage of the various programs organized for students by non-profit organizations like WHO. A few of these are the Internship Programme, UN Volunteers Programme. Additionally, if you are a graduate you can also go for the Junior Professional Officer Programme. 

With the world of the internet, there are also opportunities to learn remotely. Medical students and graduates can train with remote opportunities available by various esteemed institutions. 

Epidemiology: The Basic Science of Public Health – University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Biostatistics in Public Health Specialization – Johns Hopkins University

Statistical Analysis with R for Public Health Specialization – Imperial College London

Epidemiology for Public Health Specialization – Imperial College London

Epidemiology in Public Health Practice – Johns Hopkins University

It is also considerable to continue adding credits to your education by taking CME (Continuing Medical Education) courses. There are various websites and organizations like Coursera that give many free courses for students. 

To conclude, there is a lot of scope in public health, especially with the advent of the pandemic and the availability of a lot of courses at the click of a button. Countries are focusing more towards improving healthcare and more policies are being made to create a better future for the coming generations. This is the best time to step into these opportunities because there is an increasing demand around the world. To start as a medical student, you can begin with healthcare campaigns, moving forward you can acquire degrees in public health, and explore job opportunities in the organization discussed above. 

Reference – 

Ray T  Careers in Public Health: Career Scopes, Top Colleges and Salaries [Internet]. Nov, 2018. Available from: https://www.stoodnt.com/blog/public-health-careers/ 

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