Noncommunicable diseases affect a large portion of the global population. These conditions account for 70 percent of all deaths worldwide, killing an estimated 40 million people annually, according to research from the World Health Organization. Despite the development and deployment of cutting-edge medical treatments and technology, these illnesses survive, wreaking havoc the world over.
However, there are many in the health care field attempting to change this through specialized public health programs. While these initiatives center on actual clinical solutions, they also include educational components designed to equip individuals with the knowledge they need to reduce the risk of developing noncommunicable conditions. These activities fall under the population health subfield of health promotion.
Specially trained public health professionals lead such efforts, leveraging medical know-how and leadership experience to develop, deploy, and manage educational initiatives meant to improve clinical outcomes and prevent the spread of disease. This niche is ideal for individuals who might already work in health care but are interested in moving into more prominent positions that offer them the opportunity to maximize their impact. However, before pursuing careers in this domain, prospective health promotion professionals should familiarize themselves with the field, its history, and the specific skills and experience that facilitate success.
An important niche
Physicians have long linked public education and awareness to disease occurrence, according to research published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine. Even before the germ theory overtook the miasma movement, which attributed the development of disease to offensive odor or vapor, physicians understood that poverty, lack of education, and other roadblocks to health consciousness contributed to the spread of illness. As far back as the sixth century BCE, medical experts attempted to enlighten the public, according to an article published in Health Promotion International.
However, it was not until 1945 that health promotion emerged as a formalized subfield. Medical historian Henry Sigerist is credited with creating the concept, which he included among the four primary tasks he thought doctors and other health care professionals should address: health promotion, disease prevention, healing, and rehabilitation. On Nov. 21, 1986, more than 40 years after Sigerist articulated the idea of health promotion, doctors from across the globe convened in Ottawa, Ontario for the First International Conference on Health Promotion, according to WHO. During the event, attendees drafted the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, which called for health care organizations and physicians everywhere to head off disease via proactive educational activities. In the eight conferences following the inaugural event, attendees reaffirmed this effort through additional charters.
Today, the WHO and other nongovernmental agencies lead most visible health promotion efforts, most of which center on three primary concepts:
- Health governance: Stakeholders must work with government officials to draft sound policy that encourages citizens to develop healthy habits.
- Health literacy: Individuals and families should have access to scientifically sound reference materials that enable them to make healthy choices.
- Metropolitan health: City governments, which, according to the United Nations, serve more than 54 percent of the global population, should take the lead in health promotion programs.
Initiatives based on these notions have the potential to make an immense impact, alleviating the burden of disease and laying the groundwork for societal growth. For example, analysts at the Trust for America’s Health estimate an investment of $10 per person in health promotion programs that encourage exercise, offer sound nutritional advice, and help those addicted to tobacco products quit could cut annual U.S. health care costs by $16 billion. This figure does not even take into account the boost in productivity that can unfold as a result of an increasingly fit workforce. In short, the subfield of health promotion continues to grow in importance as health care organizations and physicians look for preventive means of addressing illness.
An impactful career
With more health care entities embracing health promotion, demand for the individuals who lead such efforts is on the rise, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health care professionals specializing in educational activities are at the center of an industry-wide recruitment push that is expected to result in more than 19,000 new jobs from 2016 to 2026, an increase of 16 percent. The time is right for health care professionals pursuing such roles to begin their journeys to the health promotion field. How can they get there?
Individuals leading health promotion programs must possess versatile skill sets that include a number of critical competencies, including clinical expertise, social science knowledge, and data collection and analysis capabilities. Additionally, because many of the professionals in this subfield work in communities and often interact with patients, communication skills are essential. For those in top-level executive positions that skew toward planning, coordination, and relationship-building, managerial and leadership abilities are necessary. Health promotion experts who function in academic settings may need teaching experience, along with the proper licensing, to function effectively.
These in-demand roles offer fulfilling work and can come with strong compensation packages. Health promotion specialists working in hospitals earn more than $63,000 per year, according to the BLS. Those in leadership positions have higher salary ceilings, earning an average of $104,000.
Getting the right education
How can health care professionals get the skills and experience they need to move into such roles? Pursuing a Master of Public Health degree is one of the best solutions. Why? These credentials are considered prerequisites for health promotion executives and give those with little practical experience in the field the opportunity to quickly bolster their resumes. However, traditional full-time master’s programs are not a good fit for most working health care professionals, most of whom cannot afford to sacrifice their careers and personal lives to go back to school. Luckily, there is a viable alternative: an online MPH degree program.
Students in online programs such as the Regis College MPH can save on expenses linked to transportation and housing through classes delivered via cutting-edge tools that are accessible online at any time. Students who enroll in the online MPH degree program at Regis participate in an exhaustive curriculum touching on key topics such as biostatistics, health ethics, public health administration, and behavioral science. The instructional track features concentrations centered on epidemiology and public health administration — two areas of expertise that can set prospective health promotion professionals apart from their peers.
Are you interested in cultivating a marketable skill set that can enable you to move into the health promotion field? Contact Regis College today to learn more about the online MPH degree program.