Public Health Career Education in Idaho

While Idaho might be thought of as a rural state, 2014 data reveals that 69% of the population actually lives in city or suburban areas, up 10% since 1990. Despite this transition, Idaho is still one of the most rural states in America, with an average population density of 19 people per square mile, compared to the national average of 87.4 people per square mile. Providing public health services to rural areas is an on-going challenge, and as the population of Idaho continues to shift, the state will be faced with the need to reprioritize its public health efforts.

A 2015 report published by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) identified the top six public health challenges Idaho faces. Adequate access to healthcare remains the greatest challenge Idaho faces, largely because so many state residents reside in rural communities. Other public health challenges include obesity, heart disease and stroke, vaccine-preventable diseases, and suicide.

To combat these problems, Idaho devoted about $144 million to public health spending in 2013 alone. Federal funding contributed another $80 million. Combined state and federal public health spending hovered around $138 from 2012-2014. Most funds allocated for public health in Idaho have been used to promote childhood vaccination, followed by chronic disease prevention and health promotion.

Most recently, Idaho launched the first part of a five-year plan to address the state’s top health concerns. This plan, called Get Healthy Idaho represents a strategy shift in how Idaho approaches and deals with public health problems. Get Healthy represents the first comprehensive public health assessment of multiple aspects of public health performed in the state nearly a decade.

As Idaho moves forward with this ambitious initiative, long-term success will depend on the presence of well-educated and dedicated public health experts, from policy advocates and program administrators, to health communication specialists and epidemiologists.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Idaho

The Master of Public Health (MPH) is an interdisciplinary degree designed to advance the careers of public health professionals, and give new opportunities to those with a professional background in other areas. MPH programs do not require enrolling students to hold a degree in a specific undergraduate major, which creates opportunities for students to build off their unique undergraduate and professional experience.

Online and part time MPH programs help to provide a degree of flexibility that can help even the busiest professionals earn a degree on their own time.

MPH Program Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), in a partnership with the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), developed the Core Competency Model in 2004. This model forms the foundation of current MPH programs by focusing on these five competencies:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy Management
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

The ASPH also identified seven crosscutting domains important to preparing leaders within the public health sphere. While not the primary focus of an MPH program, most programs adhere to ASPH recommendations by covering some combination of these topics:

  • Communication and Informatics
  • Diversity and Culture
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Program Planning
  • Public Health Biology
  • Systems Thinking

Admission Requirements

The following is a list of standard requirements for admission to an MPH program (specific requirements differ according to each individual school’s policies):

  • Submission of GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT
  • Submission of official transcripts from all other undergraduate and graduate institutions
  • Submission of a 500-1000 word purpose essay
  • Resume
  • Two letters of recommendation

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 the rapidly changing world of public health:

Health Communication: Suicide prevention is a major priority for Idaho’s public health officials because Idaho consistently ranks in the top ten states for teen suicide rates. Effective marketing and dissemination of educational materials has never been more crucial than with programs designed to reach people who may be despondent and considering suicide. In an effort to reduce suicides, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) sponsored a council on suicide prevention. The IDHW website also provides basic information about suicide for individuals seeking help for themselves or loved ones, such as common warning signs. Preventing suicide heavily depends on public health intervention at all levels, but particularly at the individual and community levels, where targeted communication can have the greatest impact.

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, the Get Healthy Idaho campaign released in July 2015 combines a variety of health data, including community-level data and data from separate state-wide assessments. Public health officials used this data to analyze resident health trends, identify health priorities, and develop new policy accordingly.

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
Sponsored Content

Program Planning and Evaluation: As an example of policy design and implementation in Idaho is the goal overlap between the state-based Get Healthy Idaho (GHI) program and a nationally-based program called The State Healthcare Innovation Plan (SHIP). Both programs identified access to healthcare as the top challenge to improving public health in Idaho. Because of this, state public health officials decided to make access to healthcare their first priority issue in the first year of the five-year GHI program, working cooperatively with the members of SHIP to resolve Idaho’s healthcare access problem. Part of this cooperative involves demographic research to identify health disparities among the population which may contribute to the healthcare access crisis.

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: This focus area prepares students to analyze and determine solutions to health problems in low- or middle-income populations around the globe. By evaluate relevant health policies, in the US and around the world, global health specialists seek to address the most pressing global public health threats of the 21st century by way of effective policy, fundraising and marshalling political will.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Climate Change and Social Change

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

As Idaho unfurls the first year initiatives linked to the five-year Get Healthy Idaho program, the state will see a greater need for public health specialists in community program management, policy planning and evaluation, and health communication. Idaho is also currently experiencing a shortage of mental health experts, with a great need for individuals prepared to address suicide, interpersonal conflicts, and drug addiction.

The US Department of Labor and the Idaho Department of Labor (IPL) provide job growth projections for public health professions that generally require a master’s degree for the ten-year period leading up to 2022:

  • Social and community services managers: 15%
  • Statisticians: 20%
  • Microbiologists: 11%
  • Biological Scientists All Other: 3%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 16%

Salaries for Public Health Professions in Idaho That Require a Master’s Degree

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Idaho Occupational Wages shows salary ranges for public health professions in the state as reported in 2014. The following salary ranges show the 10th and 90th percentile salaries for select public health professions typically associated with a master’s level education.

  • Social and community services managers: $27,900-73,800
  • Statisticians: $46,200-134,200
  • Microbiologists: $36,800-107,100
  • Biological Scientists All Other: $40,500-85,700
  • Scientists: $41,100-79,900
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $18,600-53,900
Sponsored Content

Career Opportunities for Idaho Master’s Prepared Public Health Professionals

The State Healthcare Innovation Plan (SHIP) is national program developed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMC) to restructure the healthcare system and develop new healthcare models in each state. This program is an ideal example of public health initiatives that require officials in a variety of specialized areas with an interdisciplinary public health education.

The following job descriptions were found in a survey of job posts for master’s educated public health professionals in Idaho in January of 2016. (Examples shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to imply a job offer or assurance of employment.):

Executive Director, United Health Group, Boise ID

  • Responsibilities
    • Provide leadership and accountability of health plan operations to meet requirements of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
    • Create and foster strong relationships with IDHW, Optum staff, healthcare providers, legislators, stakeholders, and community organizations
    • Direct different teams in a matrix environment and eliminate risks
    • Provide clinical and administrative supervision to staff
    • Engage in Optum Public Sector initiatives and meetings.
    • Ensure collaboration and cooperative between areas of United Health Group
  • Requirements
    • Master’s Degree preferred
    • Minimum of ten years of experience in healthcare delivery systems, healthcare administration, public policy, or related field
    • Minimum five years of experience in public sector or non-profit community mental health
    • Leadership experience with building cross-functional teams
    • Excellent interpersonal communication skills

Clinician, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Statewide

  • Responsibilities
    • Complete assessments, evaluations, observations, and interviews to inform diagnostic impression
    • Create treatment plans
    • Recommend services and interventions to patients
    • Provide counseling to groups, family members, and individuals
    • Provide crisis intervention support
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree or higher in a direct clinical practices human service field
      • Social work
      • Psychology
      • Marriage and family counseling
      • Closely related field

Program Director, Mental Health Wellness Center, Rexburg ID

  • Responsibilities
    • Oversee day-to-day operations of Rexburg outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment facility
    • Conduct client intakes and therapy
    • Supervise faculty staff
    • Manage compliance issues with regulatory agencies
    • Market services to potential referral sources
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree in public health or related field
    • One year of management/supervision of a mental health facility