Public Health

By Christina Thielst, FACHE

Obtaining a degree in healthcare administration does not necessarily mean job opportunities will only exist in hospitals, clinics and other health care provider environments. The field of public health, which is focused on preventing disease, promoting health and prolonging life, presents an array of roles and responsibilities.

International, federal, state and local government agencies, as well as private organizations, fulfill missions in the various branches of public health:

  • Learn more about our healthcare degrees community health
  • occupational health and safety
  • environmental health
  • behavioral health
  • infectious disease control and prevention
  • public policy

Examples of agencies with public health missions include the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, Peace Corps, Red Cross, Public Health Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and state and local departments of health and behavioral health.  These and numerous community-based organizations around the country have positions that require knowledge and skills in:

  • program planning and leadership
  • establishing clinical and administrative policies and procedures
  • communication and outreach
  • building relationships with community partners
  • data analysis and reporting
  • education and training
  • emergency and disaster planning and preparedness
  • compliance
  • grants and contract management
  • developing and implementing public policy
  • ensuring safe and therapeutic environments for staff and individuals served

Because some public health organizations also provide ambulatory or inpatient services, traditional healthcare administration positions in billing and coding may also exist.

Administrative professionals can expect to work with others on multidisciplinary teams, such as physicians specializing in infectious disease or public health, psychologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, nurses, midwives, medical microbiologists, environmental health officers, inspectors, pharmacists, dental hygienists, dietitians and nutritionists, veterinarians, community outreach workers, communication specialists and bioethicists. Educational requirements for these public health positions will range from an associate degree to a master’s.

Specific public health programs and initiatives can include:

  • homeless and/or migrant worker outreach
  • emergency services
  • immunizations
  • tobacco cessation
  • nutrition and exercise
  • women, infants and children
  • animal services
  • psychiatric crisis management
  • obesity
  • hygiene and sanitation
  • communicable disease surveillance 

Jobs worth exploring include:

Strategic Planner – Collect and analyze data about public health issues and collaborate with internal and external partners to create strategies that address challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Health and Wellness Manager - Analyze data and trends to create programs which address the unique problems that confront a particular community or population. These programs may include individual and group education or other activities to improve community health and wellness.

Health Promotions Manager - Coordinate the planning and development of programs that promote healthy lifestyles and choices. Work with program managers, researchers and grant writers to design strategies, create educational content and apply for funding.

Behavioral Health Program Administrator - Provide leadership to a range of services provided by mental health and/or chemical dependency professionals, such as crisis units, residential programs or outpatient services.  Coordinate services with community-based providers to identify gaps in assistance and collaborate on providing additional benefits.

Emergency Preparedness Administrator - Work with community stakeholders to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities. Facilitate community-wide planning, create emergency operations plans and respond to natural disasters or terrorist threats. Plan and manage disaster supply inventories and stockpiles and provide education and training opportunities to the public, first responders, hospitals and other stakeholder groups.

Community Health Worker – Locate and connect with individuals in hard to reach populations to educate them about disease prevention. Offer supportive counseling, advocacy and connections to needed services.

Health Communications Specialist - Provide the media and public with information about healthy lifestyle choices, diseases and public health alerts. Convey evidence-based research in a way that can be easily understood by the community, including those with low health literacy rates or language barriers. 

Christina ThielstBIO:
Christina Thielst has experienced the evolution of the healthcare system over the last 30 years as both a hospital administrator and a consultant. She received a bachelor’s degree in social science/management from Louisiana State University and a Master’s of Health Administration from Tulane University, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.