Public health professionals strive to make positive changes that impact everyone in their communities. Considered the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities, public health is critical to the well-being of society at large.
Because of we’ve seen drastic improvements related to vaccine-preventable diseases, maternal and infant health, tobacco control, motor vehicle safety, cancer prevention, and just about everything in between.
If you’re eager to build a career that makes a difference in the lives of others, this field could be the one for you. Read on to learn about the public health skills you’ll need to master.
7 Core competencies for public health professionals
To be effective in this field, public health officials must maintain a dynamic balance of hard and soft skills. In fact, the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice has developed a framework outlining the core competencies public health professionals need.
Those who have their sights set on a thriving career in this field should focus on honing the following set of public health skills:
1. Data analytics and assessment skills
The collection and assessment of data is a fundamental element of public health work. In fact, assessment is considered one of the three core functions of public health. Analysis of information helps officials learn crucial information about a community’s current health status, needs, and challenges.
A skilled public health professional will know how to collect, analyze, manage, and apply quantitative and qualitative data to assess community health status. This requires an ability to not only interpret but also adequately describe factors that affect the health of a community.
2. Policy development and program planning skills
Another core function of public health is policy development. By conducting policy analyses, developing key community partnerships, and helping to promote and implement evidence-based interventions, public health professionals are able to strengthen, support, and mobilize communities to improve environmental health.
In addition to extensive policy-related research duties, professionals working in public policy are also expected to engage in strategic organizational and community planning, continually evaluating existing policies, programs, and services.
3. Communication skills
While many public health careers operate behind the scenes to improve environmental health, some are called upon to communicate strategies and recommendations to the public. This involves facilitating communication among individuals, groups, and organizations.
Strong communication skills are particularly necessary for public health officials tasked with responding to information, misinformation, and disinformation. When it comes to community health measures, people and organizations need their questions answered with responses that are clear, concise, and educational.
4. Health equity skills
Part of ensuring that adequate healthcare services are available to community members is focusing on health equity. Achieving health equity is reaching a state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest level of health.
The goal of eliminating preventable health disparities requires professionals who are able to recognize the diversity of individuals and populations while also engaging in continuous self-reflection about one’s biases. In order to reduce systemic and structural barriers that perpetuate health inequities, public health officials must apply principles of ethics, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in all they do.
5. Community partnership skills
One of the keys to effective public health is community partnerships. In fact, without this, many public health efforts would completely fail to thrive. Professionals in this realm actively engage with community organizations and citizens in their programs and activities.
Such partnerships are crucial in generating collective interest and action, building community engagement and social capital, and helping contribute to an overall culture of health within the communities being served. In addition to building trust, community partnerships are also important avenues of shared resources and combined talents, resulting in enhanced opportunities for positive health outcomes.
6. Management and finance skills
None of the contributions public health professionals make to our communities would be possible without people able to oversee the logistics of each and every effort. This is why acute management and finance skills can be important for those working in public health.
Depending on your role, you may be tasked with securing and managing human resources, securing and managing financial resources, engaging in professional development efforts, participating in contingency planning, and managing the programs and services that are implemented.
7. Public health sciences skills
While all the above skill sets are immeasurably important in public health, it’s crucial for professionals in this sector to maintain sharp skills related to public health sciences in general. This means developing an evolving knowledge of the systems, policies, and events that have the greatest impact on environmental health.
It also means that public health officials need expertise in evidence-based practices, as concrete findings will be required to develop, implement, evaluate, and improve policies and services in public health.
Develop the public health skills you need for a thriving career
By working in public health, you’ll have the opportunity to make a concrete difference in the lives of others. But in order to succeed in this important field, you will need to develop the core public health competencies organizations are looking for.
If you’re interested in an interdisciplinary approach to public health education with a customizable curriculum rooted in science and social justice, you can find what you’re looking for at Fairfield University. Learn more about Fairfield’s dynamic approach by visiting the online Master of Public Health (MPH) program page or by atteding the next virtual information session on Wednesday, April 5.