Public Health and You
Public health consultants come from a wide range of professional backgrounds – from information analysis and economics to epidemiology, nursing or clinical medicine.
They are employed in a variety of environments and organisations, usually working at a strategic or senior management level, leading multidisciplinary public health teams.
Public health requires a passion for improving health and reducing inequalities in health. You will be interested in why people become ill, how this can be prevented, as well as how they can be treated.
You will also be interested in how organisations and society can be changed to bring about better health.
Some examples of recent priorities for public health work include reducing smoking rates and protecting people from environmental tobacco smoke, looking at ways of reducing obesity and alcohol consumption, and new ways of delivering care for older people.
Tackling such problems means working with a wide range of people of all sorts, perhaps managing big budgets and large numbers of staff, perhaps operating as a passionate advocate for change.
This sort of work often has long timescales, results taking years to achieve, but if you have the enthusiasm and drive to carry you through, your work can have a lasting impact on many thousands of people.
What are the career prospects?
Public health offers a very wide range of career opportunities – from major management posts to specialised roles with substantial clinical content.
Many public health consultants change jobs several times in the course of their career, taking on different challenges in a way that clinical medicine seldom offers. There is also great scope to practise abroad.
What is the future of the specialty?
There will be a need for public health specialists for as long as there are avoidable health problems and health inequalities to be tackled.
The nature of practice has changed, just as the nature of the major health problems changes: preventable chronic diseases are now increasingly competing with infection. But with HIV, drug-resistant bacteria and the threat of flu pandemics, public health is having to utilise old skills as well as acquire new ones.