How a Public Health Degree can Benefit Wellness Practitioners
Wellness practitioners who are interested in improving the health of populations can benefit greatly from a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. The field of public health offers career opportunities for individuals with a wide range of backgrounds and skills. Wellness practitioners who focus on preventative and rehabilitative health care and who want to protect the health of public are needed by local, national and international populations and the organizations who serve them.
While it may be possible for wellness practitioners to find employment in public health with their current training, a master’s degree is essential for advancement into leadership positions. The MPH is a professional degree with an orientation toward the practice of public health in health care organizations; hospitals; consulting firms; community health agencies; and state, national and international health agencies. MPH curricula include core courses in behavioral health, environmental health, epidemiology and public health administration.
Wellness practitioners who earn an advanced degree in public health learn how to use quantitative and qualitative strategies to develop health care solutions that improve the health and well being of communities. Here are some examples of how different types of practitioners can benefit from earning an MPH:
Social workers who focus on mental health will find that an MPH degree allows them to move from individual casework to lead prevention and health promotion efforts for entire communities. The connection between social work and public health is not new, but it is receiving renewed interest. This is evidenced by the growing number of universities offering dual degrees in social work and public health. Public health social workers are qualified to serve as community service administrators, program directors and policy analysts. Social Work Today reports that an MSW/MPH dual degree can provide a social worker with training in intervention at the individual level and prevention at the community level.
Nutritionists help people make healthy choices that improve their quality of life and prevent chronic disease. An MPH can provide greater awareness of the behavioral and cultural influences that shape a community’s nutrition choices. The Association of State & Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors cites the obesity epidemic as one example of a challenge that can be addressed best with the combined expertise of nutritionists and public health experts. Earning an MPH degree provides nutritionists with the knowledge and skills they need to become leaders in organizations that focus on providing nutritious foods for at-risk populations and that educate the public about the benefits of healthy eating. They are better prepared to set nutrition policy at the local, state and national level and to pursue careers at the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies.
Exercise physiologists are trained to help people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease by planning and implementing rehabilitative exercise programs. The American Society of Exercise Physiologists identifies the promotion of health and the protection of the public as central goals of exercise physiologists, highlighting how an MPH can serve such professionals. An MPH can provide the skills to assess clinical populations and to provide education and treatment that will improve their quality of life and extend their chances of survival. Exercise physiologists with an advanced degree in public health are better prepared to become leaders in their field and to affect policy in the area of rehabilitative exercise.
Physical trainers have the skills to help individuals increase their physical activity and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles, including obesity. Many states employ physical trainers as consultants on matters of public health, such as Texas’s Advisory Board of Athletic Trainers. An MPH can help physical trainers by providing strategies for integrating physical activity into public health practice. The public health agenda has made daily physical activity a top priority, increasing the demand for public health scientists and practitioners who understand the role of exercise in disease prevention and health promotion. With the public health perspective gained by earning an MPH, physical trainers are better prepared to analyze population data and to assist in the development and evaluation of programs that support healthy exercise.
Psychologists who earn an MPH degree are prepared to help to address health problems in the general population. They may work as researchers, tracking the incidence and prevalence of a specific problem, such as domestic violence. They are also prepared to design and evaluate intervention programs and policies and to disseminate information about health issues to the public. According to the American Psychological Association, “public health training can broaden the scope of any psychologist.”