Public health has been a key area of focus for governments and policymakers. Healthy citizens, with their will and dedication, contribute towards taking the economy forward.
Public health can be summed up as the study, measures and science employed to target diseases, their prevention and mitigation aimed at promoting healthy lives, brought about by concerted effort of governmental agencies, social groups, civil societies and aware individuals. Assessing the population’s health, quantifying threats and a plan of action form the basis of public health policy formulation and implementation.
Public Health Sector – An Overview
The key is to avoid as many people as possible from falling into the vicious disease cycle, which means loss of health, out-of-pocket expenditure, financial stress and potential impact on a country’s GDP in the long run, if not addressed. It includes many more things like educating people, creating awareness, undertaking groundbreaking research initiatives, reducing vulnerabilities of women, children and the elderly.
It addresses the nutritional requirements of the working population, disability issues, and other general issues, including mental health. This offers a wide range of opportunities for a career in public health that includes physicians, nurses, epidemiologists, social workers, health educators, nutritionists, safety professionals, policymakers’ researchers and scientists. It is multidisciplinary and highly diverse, with the convergence of many specialized fields.
Functions of Public Health
There are 3 clearly defined functions of public health called, core functions.
1. Assessment: Identifying, monitoring and quantifying key environmental parameters in public health to unambiguously arrive at issues to tackle.
2. Policy Development: Once areas to work on have been identified, policies have to be put in place that aims at disease prevention and mitigation.
3. Assurance: By sound regulatory measures, safety parameters, linking all stakeholders, periodic assessment of deliverable, tracking developments, we assure the public at large that things are being taken care of.
Sectors in Public Health
As mentioned earlier, public health is a highly diversified field with many specialized fields branching out. No doubt, a career in public health will be highly rewarding and satisfying. With regards to the engagement potential of the professionals, they can appropriately associate themselves with governments, private organizations or render services as a private consultant by pursuing any of the Public health courses. While many degrees can be obtained by studying public health online, it is worthwhile to look closer at some of the most prominent ones.
· Biostatics- Biostatisticians dabble in a fair amount of statistics and further analysis to draw linkages in public health problems. They devise strategic models, predict trends, observe changes minutely and calibrate risk factors. Considering the number-crunching required, deep insights as a trait, industry faces a dearth of sound biostatisticians.
· Epidemiology: A sought after field, it is the converging ground for biostatistics, community health and socio-cultural aspects including the economics of public health. Epidemiologists work tirelessly to find the causative factors, the spread of disease and aim to find solutions.
· Environmental Health: It is a fast-emerging field due to the rise in environment-related health issues. Environmental scientists, Quality investigators and Environmental engineers are some of the diverse profiles a student of environmental health can assume. They work in identifying areas that are critical to human health like water, air and pollution factors, to name a few.
· Policy and Management: These committed individuals are drawn from various disciplines and are adept in matters of finance, management, economics, law, ethics and more. Holding considerable sway over public health policy design and formulation, their expertise and insight are much needed by the industry and governmental agencies alike. Public Health Management is fast coming up as a lucrative career option in recent times.
· Maternal and Child Health: Aimed at protecting expecting women, mothers and children throughout the reproductive cycle and beyond, this area is very important, as a majority of the population consists of young women and children. These healthcare professionals deal in pre or post-natal care, infant care, and mortality rates. In many sub-Saharan countries, especially the developing ones, the role of a qualified individual from this field is very important.
Current Public Health Scenario in Africa
Africa has long remained one of the most neglected places on earth and is home to a number of life-threatening epidemics, diseases, and pestilences. It has for centuries suffered the worst outbreak of deadly diseases accentuated by a crippling economy and devastating inter-regional disputes and ethnic conflicts. The World Health Organization (WHO) has done a remarkable job in drawing the attention of the world to the state of Public Health in Africa. There are several key points that are absolutely essential when discussing the health situation on the African continent. By 2050, nearly 60% of the population of the continent is expected to be living in urban areas and 35– 40% of children and adolescents globally are projected to be living in Africa. With nearly 1.22 billion inhabitants, almost 60% of the population is struggling with HIV/AIDS. One of the leading causes of death, the tide has been stemmed thanks to anti-retroviral medication. 90% of all worldwide reported malaria deaths occur in Africa, while records of leprosy incidences have shown a remarkable decline.
With high mortality rates, special under five, focus on child health in recent times has shown positive outcomes. Polio is nearing eradication and aggressive immunization programs have caught up to tackle other threats like measles. Still, African nations feature high on the list of countries with high rates of newborn and maternal mortality. Modern-day Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) like diabetes, cancer, coronary ailments continue to pose challenges. This is augmented by poor sanitation, lack of clean water and resources, the dearth of qualified medical professionals. With SGD goals aimed at elevating public health, much remains to be done with regard to Public Health in Africa and Public Health Management.
Mapping Africa’s Advanced Public Health Education Capacity
Given the humungous nature of health problems grappling Africa in general and Sub-Saharan regions in particular, some key findings as per the latest research, present a telling picture of Public Health in Africa. A 2015 report suggests that Africa had one doctor for every 5000 people with most of the full-time staff being male. More than 50% of the African countries do not offer postgraduate training in public health program with a little more than 20% offering a single program while only 20% offer more than one program in public health. This speaks volumes about the urgent need to expand the continent’s focus on public health. There is a marked disconnect between public health education and research, calling for the greater need for holistic expansion. Provisions for studying public health online will enable many students to pursue a career in public health as many parts of Africa is geographically disconnected. Public health courses need to ramp up as Africa needs more graduates who opt for a career in public health to fill the gap.
In-demand Sectors – Public Health
As the world moves towards greater globalization and integration of world economies, new age issues rile the world population. Climate change, food habit changes, pollution, has opened up avenues in Public health courses, which means better and more Public health jobs. Some roles are highly sought after like health and safety engineers, environmental scientists, healthcare administrators, biostatisticians and epidemiologists to name a few.
Highest Paying Public Health Jobs
These are the fields in public health that bring lucrative career and growth opportunities and are ranked as high paying jobs. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, or BLS (US), the median salary for medical and health services managers is $96,540 while same for Health and Safety Engineers is around $86,720.
A well-qualified biostatistician can command a median salary of $81,950. This again varies with expertise and experience. Contrast this with the salary of a biostatistician in Africa (South Africa) which is approximately R359,000 per year and for an epidemiologist anywhere between R160,423 and R694,210 per year depending on their experience levels.
Courses and degree offered for a Career in Public Health
Students with zeal love to have a sound professional curve which pays them adequately, have a plethora of options in Public health jobs. Institutions world over have taken note of the acute need to groom doctors, epidemiologist and nutritionist for a better world. Key is a selection based on one’s area of interest and career prospects. It’s an exhaustive list of over 25 courses where some of them are Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorates in Public Health, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Health Informatics, Maternal & Child Health, Environmental & Occupational Health, Health Administration, Public Health Management and many others that offer rich exposure. Many more diploma courses can also be pursued online.
Texila’s School of Public Health – A Sterling Example
Texila school of Public health, under the aegis of Texila American University, has been playing a key role in disseminating education in the domain of public health and shaping careers. It perfectly fits into the modern-day requirement of imparting quality education and advanced training in a range of disciplines including healthcare, medicine, management, & research amongst others.
The Master’s in Public Health offered by Texila is very comprehensive and ideally suited for students who aim for a bright career in public health with a mission towards the greater good for humanity. This is the underlying idea behind each of Texila’s public health courses where they are designed to live up to new and international standards. Service to humanity will always remain the ultimate goal of public health and other related medical institutions like Texila American University.