Public health is all about education and the community as a whole, as opposed to health care, which concentrates on health care for individuals. Helping people understand ways in which they can improve their own health and safety by adopting healthier lifestyles, preventing disease and injuries, as well as understanding the causes of violence in their society and looking for ways to end it is what public health is all about.
If you’re thinking about getting your Master of Public Health degree there are several areas where you could concentrate your efforts. According to the website, whatispublichealth.org, there are at least 10 different areas of focus for public health efforts.
1) Behavioral Science/Health Education – This is basically helping people understand ways to change their behavior so that they don’t engage in risky or unhealthy practices.
2) Biostatistics – The statistics from violent deaths or injuries or the number of cases for certain diseases is a great way to identify trends in public health areas. Focusing on this area can help predict future occurrences and/or find ways to prevent future outbreaks.
3) Emergency Medical Services – the need for trained emergency medical personnel in communities is always in high demand. As a public health professional, this aspect of public health concentrates on making sure there are trained, licensed and high quality EMT personnel in the community.
4) Environmental Health – What’s in the water we drink and the air we breath has a great effect on our health. In this area of public health you would be helping both keep track of and helping communities get rid of all the environmental factors that go into affecting their health from air quality to water quality, or hazardous waste disposal.
5) Epidemiology – stopping the spread of diseases or trying to prevent outbreaks before they start requires a knowledge of how they spread and what factors are involved in the outbreaks. This area of public health concentrates on those areas as a way to keep disease outbreaks from occurring.
6) International/Global Health – Because people can move about the world in a matter of hours, the effects of disease in one country can have a global impact, sometimes before health officials are even aware of its existence. Getting involved in global health issues is an important and fast growing area of public health.
7) Maternal and Child Health – The health of a community is heavily dependent on the health of children and their mothers. Helping women with their reproductive health and ensuring healthy children by making sure they get vaccines, checkups, etc is a way to ensure healthy communities.
8) Nutrition – One of the greatest challenges to public health in these modern times is the easy access to unhealthy food and a general lack of exercise among many populations. This focus uses nutrition and healthy exercise guidelines to improve the quality of health for individuals in a community.
9) Public Health Policy – What actions the government takes to promote or regulate health care providers, or businesses that affect health and well-being of communities can have a great impact on public health as a whole.
10) Public Health Practices – Many professions involved in health care also find themselves involved in public health. Improving your understanding of public health principles can also help improve your practice.
There are many areas of public health where a dedicated community or official individual involved in public health can concentrate. There are also many online programs to help busy individuals further their education in this field. The only hard part is figuring out which area you’d really like to concentrate in.