A career in Public Health
Oindreela Ghosh, 25 Aug 2014

India is one of the countries with dire need of an advanced and widespread public health sector. Given the current scenario, there is always a growing demand of public health professionals for a healthy future

 

Fast Facts

Degree Master’s in Public Health; Post Graduate Diploma; Integrated MSc and PhD Institutes Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) (in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University), Manipal University Specialisations Public Health Management, Health Economics, Healthcare Financing and Health Policy, Biostatistics and Data Management, Health Informatics Selection procedure Performance in qualifying examination; related work experience preferred  Eligibility BSc under 10+2+3 system; Bachelor’s degree in any discipline under 10+2+3 system for PGD in Biostatistics
and Data Management

 

Think of eradication of small pox and dramatic reduction of polio and measles cases, and you will get an idea of what public health is all about. Public health is the science of preventing disease that may threaten a community or an entire population at large. Public health organisations like United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) analyse the medical data available to study the spread of any disease in societies and demography, and determine the possible solution to eradicate the disease. 

 

IND-HealthDiverse reach

Public health is a multidisciplinary field. Several factors are taken into account to understand the widespread medical condition of a large population. Modern public health practice requires multidisciplinary teams of professionals including physicians specializing in public health or community medicine or infectious disease, epidemiologists, biostatisticians. Public health nurses, medical microbiologists, environmental health officers or public health inspectors, pharmacists, dental hygienists, dieticians and nutritionists are part of this group. Veterinarians, public health engineers, public health lawyers, community development workers, communications experts, bioethicists among others play a vital role in this sector. Students who want to progress in this field should get counselled on which aspect of public health that they want to contribute to.

 

The right course and institute

Needless to say, several factors need to be considered while choosing the right course and its appropriate specialisation. Moreover, public health education is still at a budding stage in India. Mass awareness programmes need to be conducted more often to stress the importance of public health for betterment of the society. Thus, students need to give more time to research about the available course programmes across various institutes in India.

 

Not all institutes provide all kinds of specialization courses under the umbrella of public health. Once you have zeroed down on the exact programme you want to undertake, you can search for the institutes that offer the course. Then you may individually do a background check of the credibility of each of those institutes. Some key points that you must base your research on are credibility of the faculty, in-house training programmes (if any), placement services and/or extent of its association with the public health sector at large. In today’s world of the Internet and social media, finding out such information may not be too much of a problem. 

 

You may come across a few deterrents while choosing the right course and institute in public health sector. One is your qualifying degree. Most of the institutes require BSc degree for admission. If you do not have a BSc qualifying degree, you may have to look out for a specialization that doesn’t need that (for example, PG Diploma in Biostatistics and Data Management in PHFI). Same is applicable for your qualifying percentage. Some institutes have a 55% cut-off. Most of the institutes also look for around 2 years or higher work experience. So if your qualifying marks are low, you should have relevant work experience to make up for that.

 

Road ahead

After successfully completing a course in public health, you may look to get recruited in organizations like Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, health departments of various states, Indian Council of Medical Research. You may also move abroad and find a place in United Nations and bilateral international organizations, namely, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, DFID, DANIDA, KFW, GTZ, NORAD, CARE, Ford Foundation, JHPIEGO, GAIN, Futures Group, ICF Macro and USAID. If you wish to pass the acquired knowledge forward, you can always apply to be a part of faculty of any leading public health institutes in India or abroad. Your degree in public health can also augment you to become an official Good Samaritan by joining or starting your non-governmental organization (NGO).

 

Challenges

India is vast country with a huge population. Here, the at which endemic diseases  spread is high. Moreover, the growth of public health is also slow due to low public expenditure. Most institutes in India also do not have the right infrastructure to deal with a pandemic disease, and due to its vast demography and myriad people, raising alarms and awareness in case of a sudden outbreak of disease can be quite challenging, especially given that there is inadequate public health professionals. Students, who pursue public health, should have a clear goal about how to contribute in this field positively and improve the overall situation of the country.  

Sana ContractorSana Contractor

Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA

Former Associate Coordinator at Center for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), Mumbai

 

Q. What is so unique about this programme?

A. Public health is a very broad field and different people come with different interests. While the course ensured that students were able to gather core competencies in public health (such as, epidemiology, biostatistics, understanding how health systems are structured, how social determinants impact health, policy advocacy, behaviour change interventions, evaluation of health care interventions, etc.), it also provided us with great deal of flexibility; it was unique as it provided me with the freedom to customise what I wanted to do. 

 

Q. How did it enhance your career path?

A. Due to the flexibility of the course, I could gather skills to conduct various kinds of research (both qualitative and quantitative), and at the same time, learn about health as a human right, conflict and health, gender and health, social inequalities, etc.

 

Q. Tell us about your role as a public health professional

A. I worked as a public health researcher in a non-profit organization that conducted research on a broad range of public health issues. I was responsible for designing and implementing research studies that explored various dimensions of gender-based violence and health. 

 

 

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