Careers: Public Health
Back in 1776, mean longevity was a mere 35 years. In 1900, it had crept up to 49. By 1980, the average American made it to 74. That's a huge gain. What changed? Did doctors get better at treating illness? To some extent, yes, but that's not the main reason.
In the old days, infectious illnesses were the main cause of death. We can thank public health works for the biggest leaps in longevity. Creating clean water and sewage systems dramatically decreased illness and death from infectious diseases. Vaccinations have also decreased morbidity and mortality. During the 1940s, antibiotic drugs became available to treat bacterial infections. However, those public health programs prevented infections.
Whereas health-care practitioners tend to treat sick individuals, public health workers act to promote the health of entire populations. For more information about public health, go to What is Public Health. This site provides information on the impact of public health, careers in public health and resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association.
Education & Training
After completing your bachelor's degree, you can decide whether you want to pursue a master's degree in public health (MPH), a master's in health administration (MHA) or a doctoral degree (DrPH) in public health. Some schools also offer a master of science in health promotion.
The Association of Schools of Public Health provides information on education in the field of public health, including a list of accredited member schools of public health as well as information about internships, fellowships, jobs and funding opportunities.
If you wish to stay in Colorado, consider the Colorado School of Public Health. The program includes three partner institutions: the University of Colorado at Denver, Colorado State University and University of Northern Colorado. Several master's and doctoral degree programs are offered.
Graduates from public health programs usually specialize in fields such as epidemiology and biostatistics, global health, environmental health, reproductive health, community health, maternal and child health, health education, health-care policy, health administration and so on. The opportunities are numerous, particularly now that the focus in medicine is beginning to shift from treating illness toward preventing illness and promoting health. Salaries vary.
Linda B. White, M.D. is a freelance writer, the coauthor of The Herbal Drugstore and Kids, Herbs & Health and is an affiliate professor in the Integrative Therapeutic Practices Program at MSU Denver.