The question uppermost in a public health worker’s mind every day is, “How can I improve the lives of those who live in the community I serve?” The overall goal of public health is to educate and develop policies that help people make informed choices.
Four broad areas that show the virtue of what a Master’s in Public Health degree can foster are below.
Diving Into Community Education Enhancement
Sometimes the difference between making a smart choice and making one that hurts is greater understanding and training. The Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health states that entire communities are jeopardized by health threats such as obesity and smoking. Public health workers tackle that roadblock on many different levels, but one of the most prominent ways is through awareness and education.
However, awareness campaigns do not always work. They often have to juggle the big picture view with bringing to light very specific facts about a cause. Fear used to be the largest motivating factor in campaigns for the public, but that is being replaced with an emphasis on explanation and solutions. Common areas for greater awareness toward the well-being of a community’s population, include:
- Environmental health concerns such as car exhaust, secondhand smoke, and factory emissions
- Prevention of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and HPV
- Improving the lives of the elderly population within a community through services such as adult day care
- Mental health advocacy to reduce homelessness
- Reduce teen pregnancy
- Increased overall care for newborns and toddlers
MPH graduates take leadership for organizing teaching opportunities to eradicate, for example, poor nutrition in impoverished areas or the need for widespread vaccinations.
Part of public health education is inspiring others to advocate for change. Public health professionals identify key stakeholders and teach them the power of building educational public health programs and services. They generate funding options and budgets to foster resources and provide guidelines that help a community evolve.
Define Problems Through Community Demographics
Because the public health sector is responsible for analyzing trends within a population and developing innovative programs that manage them, presenting hard data is the best way to procure resources. Anecdotal evidence alone will not bring funding in when needed.
One area where demographic analysis is important is obesity. The Campaign to End Obesity points out the sobering outlook that, “Obesity is the reason that the current generation of youth is predicted to live a shorter life than their parents.”
The Food Research & Action Center estimates that 31.8 percent of children and adolescents are overweight. Disparities exist within different socioeconomic groups, though. Gathering that data and analyzing those numbers, means resources can be diverted to where they are needed most. This is true about obesity or any number of issues facing different communities. A community-based worker might reach out to at-risk families and provide nutritional guidance or set up a schedule that improves the quality or frequency of their meal choices.
Within every population, people fall through the cracks, and different communities have different front-of-brain concerns. By defining problems based on demographics, and learning how to do so, you are better able to develop better solutions.
Volunteering to Enhance Lives
Though it is not a career path, volunteer work provides a pro bono style of service at the heart of many essential nonprofit organizations. It keeps public health professionals close to the people they serve and informs future decisions about public health for that community.
There are several dedicated volunteer roles almost any organization needs. One of these important positions is as a health promotions committee volunteer who donates time to fundraise. The American Lung Association, for example, uses public health volunteers to organize promotions that raise awareness and arrange local events to generate donations.
Organizations like Healthcare Volunteer, exist to help connect public workers wanting to contribute with worthy service groups in their community. They represent over 4,000 non-profits and have helped raise millions throughout the world.
Applying for Public Health Internships
Agencies sponsor internships that support academic goals and broaden personal knowledge and experience at the same time.
The American Red Cross has both paid and unpaid internships that extend across the country. Applicants learn the best ways to help the community and use those ideas as you develop your career further.
As a person pursuing a career in public health, your priority is to help others and find ways to enhance public knowledge about critical issues that affect every aspect of life. An online public health degree is just the start; take what you learn and apply it to the needs of the community you serve.
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