Public Health Career Education in New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) governs health and wellness promotion throughout the state, working hard to address major health issues of all kinds for the people of New Mexico. The NMDOH’s Public Health Division is responsible for executing public health policy by developing targeted programs and engaging the people of New Mexico in education and awareness campaigns meant to improve their health, safety and overall quality of life.

There is no better example of effective health policy in action than public health programs that show real, quantifiable net results. NMDOH announced through their Public Health Division that there was a 20 percent decrease in childhood obesity rates in the state between 2010 and 2015, a phenomenal downward trend directly correlated with programs designed, implemented and managed by the Public Health Division.

Of course, the task of implementing anti-obesity education is not as simple as telling kids to eat healthy and exercise. A program of this sort starts with studies that look at the most at-risk communities and population groups to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors that contribute to obesity and the health effects that result. Next comes an analysis of the resulting epidemiological data. Policy specialists would then work with legislative bodies and school boards to get funding approved long before the task of developing a targeted program even begins. Finally, public health program administrators begin the task of designing, staffing, and implementing the program while simultaneously evaluating the results to identify areas where improvement may be needed.

The common trait among the various public health specialists involved in developing and managing a program like this is a master’s degree in public health. The highly customizable Master of Public Health can be specialized to equip students with the tools they need to advocate for health policy, study epidemiological data, and design and implement successful health initiatives like the NMDOH anti-obesity campaign.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in New Mexico

The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree equips students with the tools they need to tackle public health issues at the local level, and those that affect the global community. From epidemiologists who study the progression of diseases, to health policy advocates and public health program administrators that help develop policy and manage programs, an MPH can be customized to suit the career goals of professionals in a number of key areas of public health.

MPH programs welcome students from diverse backgrounds, and are also ideal for those with experience in public health looking to establish themselves as leaders in the field.

MPH Program Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is responsible for setting the standards for MPH programs. Since 2004, CEPH accredited programs have been based on the MPH Core Competency Model developed in collaboration with the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). These five competencies are:

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

The ASPH also identified seven crosscutting domains that they believe are necessary for a graduate to succeed as a leader in a contemporary public health setting. Accredited MPH programs follow CEPH recommendations by incorporating some combination of these vital areas:

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

Choosing an Area of Focus

MPH programs offer unique specialized tracks that allow students to focus their graduate studies in areas that would directly support their career goals. The following are just some of the more common specializations.

Health Communication: A recent spike in Chlamydia among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 had New Mexico health agencies scrambling for a solution. According to NMDOH surveys, New Mexico ranked 6th in the nation in 2013 for chlamydia rates, 20 percent higher than the national average. In response, public health experts began analyzing chlamydia infection cases in depth, synthesizing data related to gender, race, socio-economic, and other factors that could possibly impact infection rates.

That data was compiled in a report that turned into one of the most popular articles posted on the New Mexico Department of Health’s webpage. Compiling that data, presenting it in an accessible way, and ensuring it was marketed to the public and to health agencies appropriately, was the responsibility of health communication experts trained to market health campaigns. Specialists in this field will often find themselves working to implement awareness and education campaigns covering a wide variety of health related topics.

Courses within this specialization may include:

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

Health Policy: Health legislation is extremely complicated, and politicians do not always possess the knowledge necessary to navigate health legislation unaided. As a result, most states are in need of nonpartisan health policy experts to research and recommend health policy throughout the legislative process.

The NM Health Policy Commission is largely responsible for this, collaborating with healthcare agencies, promoting up to date research, and enhancing health databases as a source for healthcare specialists and healthcare systems. This organization is staffed with public health policy experts whose specialized education in policy allows them to walk the line between the legal and medical fields, providing expert guidance to both.

Courses within this specialization 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: The University of New Mexico Cancer Center is responsible for some of the state’s most important health research, employing over 100 researchers focused on developing new, effective treatments for one of the country’s deadliest diseases.

A huge part of the cancer center’s success is due to comprehensive review from program planning and evaluation specialists. In 2005, reviewers from the National Institute of Health examined the cancer center’s policies and programming and recommended a strategic overhaul. This has led to regular meetings and seminars over the past 10 years and the development of new administrative practices that have kept the center’s programs up to date.

Overseeing and educating health professionals about this process is the responsibility of planning and evaluation specialists who are educated in methods for analyzing a program’s potential impact and in developing new methods for achieving health goals.

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
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing Research for Public Health

Global Health: While many communities around the world have developed effective and impactful health systems for their local populations, global health risks that have persisted for centuries continue to pose challenging problems for health professionals. Diseases like HIVAIDS and malaria have reached epidemic proportions in some regions of the world, not to mention issues related to malnutrition and abuse.

Containing and analyzing new ways of dealing with these health risks is the responsibility of global health experts. Students in this specialization will find themselves learning about more than just program design and statistical analysis. They will also find themselves learning about the complex geopolitical factors that can influence global health problems and the tools they have available to address some of the world’s most pressing issues.

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

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

Getting a master’s degree requires a significant commitment of time and energy that can be difficult for many people to make. In response, most MPH programs offer flexible part time options that allow students to study for four years or longer.

However, students interested in entering into their professional life as quickly as possible have options as well. Many institutions offer accelerated one-year tracks that can help students to get their degree in as little as 12 months.

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

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, career options are on the rise for MPH graduates. A variety of different public health careers are expected to grow substantially over the next decade. The following are growth projections for public health professionals in New Mexico for the ten-year period leading up to 2022:

  • Social and Community Service Managers-17%
  • Statisticians-24%
  • Microbiologists-12%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors-20%

Salaries for Master’s Educated Public Health Professionals in New Mexico

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics provided the following figures for public health professions in New Mexico that are generally associated with a graduate level education. The salaries below range from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile:

  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $16,620 to $56,480
  • Social Scientists: $51,110 to $109,140
  • Biological Scientists: $31,620 to $89,760
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $38,090 to $78,720
  • Microbiologists: $39,180 to $98,380
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Career Opportunities for Master’s Educated Public Health Professionals in New Mexico

Career options are limitless for an MPH graduate. Undergraduate and extracurricular activities coupled with a specialization can open doors to a variety of different career paths. Below are a handful of job postings for master’s educated public health professionals found in a survey of vacancy announcements throughout New Mexico performed in January 2016. (Examples shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to imply a job offer or assurance of employment.):

Prescription Drug Overdose Epidemiologist, Department of Health

  • Responsibilities
    • Provide advanced data development, methodological and analytic support to the new Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program.
    • Provide public health surveillance for prescription drug overdose
    • Respond to data requests
    • Conduct public health studies
    • Present prescription overdose information to stakeholders
  • Requirements
    • Must receive a Defensive Driving Course Certificate from the state of New Mexico
    • Two years of experience in Public Health
    • Two year of experience in data analysis and linked methodology
    • Willingness to travel and occasionally engage in minor physical labor

Senior Director, Integrated Behavioral Health, UnitedHealth Group

  • Responsibilities
    • Coordinate day to day operations and ensure smooth and efficient functioning
    • Interact closely with United, Optum, Behavioral Health Providers, and stakeholders in the success of the United Centennial Care Contract
    • Ensure the timely completion of all contract deliverables
    • Guide managers and staff in the effective delivery of services
    • Represented United in relevant organizations and meetings
  • Requirements
    • Five years of managerial and administrative experience in the public sector or in behavioral healthcare
    • Thorough understanding of managed care principles and two years of experience with managed care
    • Three years of public sector health administration and knowledge of Medicaid populations
    • Demonstrated ability to build effective teams, facilitate staff working together collaboratively
    • Administrative experience in New Mexico Mental health and substance abuse service delivery system

Manager-PDS Customer Service, Presbyterian Healthcare Services

  • Responsibilities
    • Design and implement patient and family centered care program initiatives
    • Assists in the development of the Patient and Family Advisory Council’s efforts
    • Incorporates principles of adult learning in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs
    • Participates in customer experience design sessions and implementation efforts, incorporating patient journey mapping
    • Collaborate with the statistician and other coaches to coordinate communication results
  • Requirements
    • Three years of experience in patient and family engagement
    • Three years of experience in organizational program development and curriculum design
    • Strong verbal and communication skills
    • Planning and execution skills related to broad scale tactics