A Master's in Public Health is a post-collegiate degree intended to prepare students to work in a field that focuses on developing, implementing and monitoring a wide range of public health initiatives. On the graduate level, the curriculum is more focused on specializations rather than a generalized approach to various fields of study. However, it is possible to pursue dual specializations to enhance your expertise.
Understanding Public Health Issues
Public health is concerned with the prevention, protection and improvement of the health conditions of families and communities. Strategies and programs address the needs of populations instead of individuals. The size of the population may vary from a few dozen in a local community or a few million in a country or world region. Population-based strategies are complex because many variables factor into the decision-making process. Public health issues may include wellness and quality of life concerns, as well as solutions for managing and treating diseases prevalent in communities.
Public Health Concerns
When health issues deal with populations or communities rather than individuals, it makes sense to approach the issues from a wellness viewpoint. This means focusing on disease prevention and promoting healthy lifestyle choices as the first line of defense against widespread breakouts. However, with a Master's in Public Health, you may be involved in tracking disease breakouts, developing viable disease containment strategies and coordinating with other health professionals.
- Public policy – Public policy is the sum total of legislative measures, regulatory initiatives and funding priorities focused on an issue or project having to do with health issues that are of local and national concern.
- Social policy – Social policy is concerned with the interaction of social systems and the impact on social welfare and the well-being of individuals in the community.
- Health education – One of the most effective methods in disease prevention and wellness promotion is the provide the community with the information they need to make appropriate decisions. As a public health professional, much of your work will focus on developing and implementing health education programs covering diverse topics such as anti-smoking campaigns, drug abuse prevention, childhood immunization and AIDS awareness.
- Nutrition – Nutrition is concerned with access to healthy food choices for everyone. However, it is also important for communities to understand how food choices affect overall health. Obesity is a major concern in most of the U.S. because this is a condition that leads to serious illnesses.
- Research – Public health issues evolve over time. As such, it is important for public health professionals to monitor events, policies and demographic changes. With an advance degree in public health, you will be tasked with designing research protocols concerning health topics. You may have to implement, document and analyze the data generated to prove or disprove how existing policies affect public health.
- Leadership – Public health initiatives require strong leadership to guide the implementation of public or social policy programs. Your Master's degree in this field is a good start to establishing your leadership potential.
A Master's degree in Public Health puts you on the right track to establishing your credentials in this field. Public health covers a diverse range of specializations, all of which revolve around promoting the health and well-being of communities. Since public health issues require a multi-discipline approach, you may benefit even more with a Master's in Public Health combined with a degree in a relevant discipline such as nursing, medicine or law.