Public health is a diverse field that covers a broad range of concerns, so a candidate for a master's degree in this field will find a specialization that best matches their personal interests. Unlike most medical professionals, public health specialists focus on disease prevention with entire communities as the client group. The functions may involve one-on-one sessions with the focus group, but the overarching goal is to support and enhance the health and quality of life of communities. Solutions to public health issues often require a concerted effort among health professionals, policymakers and political leaders: Finding your place in this ecosystem depends on your specialized skills.
Social and Behavioral Specializations
Social and behavioral factors impact public health. An MPH with a concentration in social and behavioral sciences should become well-versed in the design, deployment and assessment of programs and policies that promote healthy behaviors especially among groups identified as at-risk. Expect to build a career with health-focused government and international agencies, nonprofit organizations and consultancies driven to understand behavioral patterns and emerging trends that may affect public health. Occupations would include public health researcher, health educator, health policy analyst and community health advocate.
Biostatistics and Epidemiology
Biostatistics is concerned with using quantitative measures to evaluate the efficacy of public health programs. Epidemiology focuses on tracking current, emerging and expected health issues that affect very large populations. Epidemiologists are trained to use both quantitative and qualitative strategies to study the impact of certain factors, natural or man-made, on the health of diverse populations. Early access to this type of information ensures proactive solutions that may prevent health issues from escalating to epidemic or pandemic scale.
As an MPH with training as a biostatistician or epidemiologist, expect to find placement at labs, non-profit groups and government agencies charged with public health management. You will also be a valued addition to the teaching and research staff at universities and teaching hospitals.
Environmental Health Specializations
Public health concerns over exposure to chemical, electrical and physical hazards have increased due to changes in technological processes, legislation and public policies. A specialization in environmental health sciences emphasizes the importance of preventing, eliminating and mitigating the effects of known hazards to human health whether these hazards are detected in water, air, soil or any part of the community's physical surroundings.
Environmental health concerns are broad by nature, so it may help if you develop specialized knowledge in topics such as molecular toxicology, environmental public policy or global health management. Expect to build a career with local and federal government organizations and private corporations that may include chemical and pharmaceutical companies.
Disaster Preparedness and Comprehensive Emergency Response
Natural disasters and man-made catastrophes have become commonplace, and the public health impact can be massive on several levels. Natural disasters are not preventable, but public health professionals are tasked with preparing strategies to minimize the impact should a disaster or man-made emergency occur. Researching the predictive determinants and designing action plans to stave off public health crises are part of your challenges as a public health professional.
Public health issues cover a broad spectrum, but the solutions are event-focused. What may work in one situation may not apply in a similar occurrence in a different community. Collaboration among different agencies and stakeholders is key to effective public health management, and your MPH specialization will define your role in these efforts.