Public Health Career Education in Hawaii

Hawaii is ranked first among all states in the nation in terms of state per capita public health spending. The Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) focuses heavily on the Vaccination for Children program designed to increase the immunization rate among children ages 19 to 35 months, which currently stands at just 70%.

According to a 2015 report released by the nonprofit group, Trust for America’s Health, the state of Hawaii spent about $219 million on public health in 2013 alone. An additional $37 million in federal funding came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and another $52.5 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 2014. Combined state and federal per capita spending in 2013-2014 was $219.27. Hawaii focuses public health spending primarily on vaccination for children, followed by chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Health preparedness and response was the third highest funded category in 2015.

Hawaii faces many public health challenges, including the spread of infectious tropical diseases, high obesity rates, low vaccination rates, and high rates of physical inactivity. Targeting these problems and improving overall resident health in Hawaii will require the efforts of experienced and highly-educated public health experts working in epidemiology, health policy development, program planning and evaluation, health communication and more.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Hawaii

An accredited Master of Public Health (MPH) program provides an interdisciplinary education that will prepare professionals to formulate public health policy, to design and construct public health initiatives, to promote programs and public health education and to effectively implement programs designed to meet the specific needs of communities in Hawaii and throughout the world

Part-time and/or online MPH programs allow working professionals to conveniently continue their education while still investing in their career.

MPH Program Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the sole accrediting body for public health graduate programs in the United States, requires that accredited MPH programs follow the MPH Core Competency model. Developed in 2004 by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), the model includes five core competencies:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental health sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Health policy and management
  • Social and behavior sciences

Hawaii is a non-homogenous population, with residents from many different cultural backgrounds, including Asian cultures (particularly Japanese), Northern Pacific Islanders, and Native American heritages. Public health leaders at all levels must be prepared to compassionately interact with and understand the diverse groups and different cultures that make up the Hawaiian population.

The ASPH has also laid out seven crosscutting domains it recommends MPH programs incorporate as a way to prepare graduates for these very challenges:

  • Communication and informatics
  • Diversity and culture
  • Public health biology
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Program planning

Focus Areas and Specialization

Focus areas are not universal and may differ by school. However, the options listed below embody the kind of specialized education that helps students meet the challenges of serving as leader in public health communication, policy development, global health and program planning and evaluation.

Health Communication: Hawaii’s 2012 Weight of Hawaii symposium is one example of a program that relied heavily on effective public health campaign marketing and health communication. This event called on over 100 obesity experts, elected government officials, business stakeholders, and community organizations. The symposium included presentations from the state governor, a local panel of experts, and health officials from the national Institute of Medicine in an effort to support cooperative and coordinated efforts to reduce obesity rates in Hawaii.

Courses may include:

  • Leadership Seminar
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Social marketing
  • Market and Research for Public Health

Health Policy: This focus area teaches students how to analyze, influence, and improve health policy in the US and internationally. For example, in May 2015, HDOH sponsored the Physical Activity and Nutrition Forum (PANF). A mix of over 140 experts and community members, the forum cooperatively developed 19 policy priorities to address the obesity and inactivity rates in Hawaii. At this concert, they also unveiled a mural depicting the 19 policy priorities in an effort to inform and engage the general public.

Courses may include

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-income Countries
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Public Health and Law
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Leadership Seminar
  • Law, Medicine and Ethics
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Program Planning and Evaluation: In November 2014, HDOH held a second, follow-up symposium to the 2012 Physical Activity and Nutrition Forum (PANF). This symposium focused on obesity, but also on chronic disease prevention. The symposium addressed the growing obesity rate, as well as the fact that three out of five Hawaiian adults live with a chronic illness, such as diabetes. Experts at this symposium analyzed existing health policies and programs, as well as methods to improve future health initiatives. The symposium used the 19 policy priorities from the PANF event to inform their decisions and improve existing public health programs.

Courses may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing Research for Public Health

Global Health: Dengue fever, usually transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, is not native to Hawaii. However, infected travelers occasionally bring the virus with them. Near the end of 2015 and into the beginning of January 2016, Hawaii Island experienced an outbreak. Most of the confirmed cases were locally acquired; only 20 of the cases were travelers. HDOH officials worked with the CDC to identify, monitor, and treat the confirmed cases, and to develop methods to prevent further spread of the virus.

Job Growth Projections for Public Health Professions in Hawaii that Require a Master’s Degree

Data from the US Department of Labor and the Hawaii Department of Labor (HPL) on job growth projections for a number of public health professions associated with a master’s-level education between 2012 and 2022 are as follows:

  • Social and community services managers: 17%
  • Statisticians: 21%
  • Microbiologists: 3%
  • Biological Scientists All Other: -12%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 14%

Salaries for Public Health Professions in Hawaii that Require a Master’s Degree

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows salary ranges for a number of public health professions in the state as reported in 2014. The follow salary ranges show the 10th and 90th percentile salaries for select public health professions that typically require a master’s in public health.

  • Social and community services managers: $36,100-88,500
  • Statisticians: $43,800-89,900
  • Microbiologists: N/A
  • Biological Scientists All Other: $28,800-92,200
  • Epidemiologists: N/A
  • Scientists: $45,100-152,300
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $18,100-55,77
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Career Opportunities for Florida Master’s Prepared Public Health Professionals

Hawaii faces many health issues that are intimately connected to the socioeconomic landscape of the population. In 2013, Hawaii ranked 47th in the US states for poverty prevalence. About 10% of Hawaiian residents lived at or below the poverty line. Most of the population deals with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or hypertension. Cancer rates are also high among Hawaiian residents.

Going forward, Hawaii is committed to improving rates of chronic illnesses by reducing obesity rates, as obesity is the primary cause of many chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension. Successfully improving the health of Hawaiian residents depends on the intervention of public health officials from many backgrounds. (Examples shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to imply a job offer or assurance of employment.):

Health Education Specialist Project Manager

  • Responsibilities
    • Long-term deployment to Africa to work with CDC and host country health partners to conduct outreach activities related to Ebola virus disease (EVD)
    • Design, plan, implement, and evaluate health education and health communication projects
    • Develop training material and educational materials
    • Design and develop audience research and evaluation plans and tools
    • Conduct communication research
    • Evaluate effectiveness of implemented health programs and activities
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree in public health, health sciences, or related field
    • Minimum four years of job related experience
    • Certified Health Education Specialist desired
    • Working proficiency in French desired
    • Knowledge of public health principles and practices, including research methodology
    • Ability to interpret social science, epidemiological literature and data

Public Health Nutritionist, Level II & IV, Department of Health, Family Services Division, Wailuku/Kahului, Maui

  • Responsibilities
    • Direct nutrition services
      • Nutrition assessment
      • Diet counseling
      • Develop high-risk care plans
    • Develop nutrition educational materials and visuals
    • Assist with outreach and Annual Nutrition Services Plan
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree from accredited university in public health, or applied human nutrition with coursework in public health
    • Eligibility for registration by the Commission on Dietetic Registration

Instructor/Counselor, Honolulu Community College, Honolulu HI

  • Responsibilities
    • Identify, plan, develop, implement, evaluate, and modify comprehensive and systematic strategies to deliver academic and counseling services to students
    • Outreach, new student orientation, academic and educational planning, career/life planning
    • Participation in retention/recruitment activities
    • Provide liaison service to academic programs
    • Develop comprehensive academic counseling programs
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree in public health, counseling and guidance, counseling psychology, or other related field
    • Demonstrated ability to adapt to change and handle varied assignments
    • Demonstrated ability to adapt to technological changes in workplace
    • Ability to communicate effectively
    • Ability to work effectively with a diverse student population