As the kinds of illnesses common to the population change, the numbers of elderly people increase and the magnitude of public policy decisions impacting the citizenry becomes more apparent, there is a clear need for experts who understand these factors. Additionally, these individuals can help improve individual and community well-being through public programs, advocating for beneficial public policy and partnering with other organizations. For these reasons, pursuing a graduate education in the field may be a wise move.
The Graying of the United States Population
One major development expected to impact overall public health is the gradual aging of the country’s populace. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that the number of senior citizens will rise to 98 million by the year 2060. As a result, the National Institute on Aging insists that chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes will become more prevalent, outpacing communicable diseases. Both private healthcare providers and public health officials have already shifted their focus on preventative care to address these realities.
The Need for Comprehensive, Wise Decision-Making
Public health officials also must recognize how decisions made can have lasting, far-reaching effects. For example, it is unwise to narrow the focus on financial factors alone, as the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan has proved. Despite the water sourced from the Flint River not being treated properly treated due to financial reasons, Flint’s Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz moved forward with the switching of its supply, with disastrous results that linger today. With continuing actions by elected officials that have potential major environmental impacts, the wisdom of public health officials is needed now more than ever.
Curricula in Public Health Become More Salient
Careers in public health comprise 50% of the fastest-growing jobs in the country. This is unsurprising, given current conditions that make effective, smart decision-making in this sector even more vital now than before. To prepare professionals for these realities, more schools are offering, retooling or promoting their public health graduate curricula to attract potential learners. For instance, USC’s masters in public health program has enjoyed increased attention and popularity. This course of study is delivered online, which allows working students to devote time to learning while continuing in their current careers.
Public health policy and health education are not the only areas in which graduates may find themselves applying their knowledge and skills. With an increasing global focus and interconnectedness to communities all over the world, programs such as the one at the University of Southern California have added areas of concentration, such as Global Health Leadership and GeoHealth (global environmental and occupational health). Biostatistics and epidemiology have also adopted a global view, as experts in the view take aim at debilitating conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
If you’re excited by the prospect of pursuing a graduate degree in public health, you should start gathering materials that you’ll need for the admissions application. Your first step will be to request transcripts of your previous college work, as well as asking mentors and professionals you trust to write recommendation letters for you. Check with each school for specific admission guidelines, as you may be asked to take a graduate admissions exam. Finally, consider applying for tuition reimbursement programs or federal student aid if you don’t have ready access to educational funds of your own.
Public health professionals will be needed more in the decades to come, especially with an aging population and the changing nature of illness. With many career opportunities with state, local, national and global organizations, your contributions will prove to be valuable. Seeking advanced education now is a vital step in the right direction.