what do public health workers do

What Do Public Health Professionals Do, Exactly?

Public health professionals have one of the most important jobs out there: they work to keep people and communities safe, healthy, and away from suffering. If you have a passion for helping people, and desire a true change-making career, the public health field may be for you.

Right now, you may be asking, “What do public health professionals do, exactly, and is it what I want to do with my future?” This is a key question to ask as you consider your career options and potential educational path. As a public health college in Connecticut – with both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in public health – Goodwin College answers this question below. But before we dive into the public health job description, it’s important to explain exactly what the public health field is all about.

What is Public Health?

Public health is the science of protecting, as well as promoting, the health of people and their communities. It involves tracking, preventing, and responding to disease outbreaks. It entails advocating for, and educating people about, healthy lifestyles and self-care. It also requires great research, to identify the causes of disease, disability, and disaster, and to create strategies for change.

Most of all, the field of public health is designed to improve our quality of life, and reduce human suffering across the world. As the CDC Foundation writes, “Public health connects us all.”

Now, What Do Public Health Workers Do?

Public health professionals protect the health of populations. Think about it like this – in the medical field, doctors and nurses treat people who are sick and injured. In the public health field, professionals work to prevent disease and injury in the first place. When an infectious disease is spreading, public health professionals work to track it, stop it, and keep communities as healthy as possible. They identify the causes of disease and disability, and implement solutions to treat them, but on a much larger scale.

Like other health practitioners, public health workers also promote good health and wellness among the people with which they work. They encourage healthy behaviors and teach people (or populations) how to execute healthy habits and proper self-care. This might mean working with people on nutritious and healthy eating, or emphasizing the importance of good mental health.

One of the core responsibilities of public health professionals – whether researchers, practitioners, or educators – is to research, develop, and implement programs for change. For example, they might work to identify the causes of gun violence in America, and develop interventions to lessen it in our communities. They might carry out changes to stop air or water pollution in regions around the world, or employ strategies to fight obesity and diabetes across the U.S. Currently, many public health professionals are fighting against the opioid crisis in America, developing strategies to prevent overdose, drug trafficking, as well as the birth of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Below are some other examples of what public health professionals will tackle on a daily basis:

  • Preventing and developing strategies to stop bullying in schools
  • Preventing cancer, and researching potential causes
  • Developing vaccines for disease
  • Preventing HIV/AIDS in certain demographics
  • Exploring the causes of, and further preventing, autism
  • Developing policies around to smoking, to prevent lung disease and secondhand-smoke in communities
  • Promoting sustainable habits to protect the greater environment
  • Developing reproductive health programs to prevent infant mortality and disease
  • Educating people about the effects of drugs and alcohol, to prevent addiction
  • Implementing safety standards in organizations to protect workers
  • Developing nutrition programs in schools to ensure children eat healthy
  • Ensuring distant communities have access to quality healthcare and services

It’s important to remember that there are many different public health careers out there today, all with varying job descriptions. What one public health worker does will differ from another’s day-to-day tasks. However, all public health professionals have the same end-goal: to safeguard the greater good. They work to limit health disparities and promote healthcare equity, quality, and accessibility for all.

Where Do Public Health Professionals Work?

The work of a public health professional can take place in just about any setting. You can work in a clinical setting, alongside other health professionals. You can work behind-the-scenes in a research environment, investigating causes and interventions for disease. You can work within communities and organizations, teaching the people about proper health. You can direct and administrate other public health workers in a management setting. You can also work on the frontline of change, within populations both big and small. A public health professional may work in communities as small as a company or local neighborhood, or in populations as big as an entire country or region.

How Do You Become a Public Health Pro?

As noted above, there are many different career paths within the field of public health. You can work in informatics or research, or pursue a job in emergency response. You can become a health educator, an outreach specialist, or a policy advisor. Depending on your passions and interests, and the title you pursue, the education requirements will vary. Generally, speaking, however, public health professionals are required to have a college degree.

With a bachelor’s degree in public health, you can become a Health Educator, Education Coordinator, Child Development Specialist, Community Health Worker, or Healthcare Administrator, among other vital job titles. With a master’s in Public Health (MPH), you can land critical and high-paying careers such as a Biostatistician, Disaster and Emergency Specialist, Public Health Director, and Epidemiologist. The list goes on – Because the field is all-encompassing, affecting all facets of healthcare and all areas of the world, the public health career options are truly endless.

To learn about becoming a public health professional in Connecticut, or about the public health programs at Goodwin College, please do not hesitate to reach out. Call us at 800-889-3282 to learn more, or visit us online to request more information about the BPH and MPH programs.