Public Health Career Education in Oklahoma

Thanks to effective public health campaigns that have been successful in raising public awareness about everything from heart health to traumatic head injury, athletic organizations across the country have found themselves revisiting policy related to risk management and assessment for a variety of different injuries. This has included better padding and detection equipment for athletes and stricter regulations for care. The state of Oklahoma took things a step further with the Chase Morris Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, which will come into effect on July 1 of 2016. Chase Morris was a student at an Oklahoma high school and an avid athlete. Chase was at high risk for heart attack due to an enlarged heart, a fact that wasn’t discovered until it was too late. He passed away suddenly from a heart attack caused by over activity since his heart condition had never been diagnosed.

The Chase Morris Act sets up new standards requiring athletes to undergo cardiac focused medical screening to determine if they have the strength to play, and it also requires coaching staff to hold certifications that equip them to identify at-risk students with the hopes of preventing another tragedy like this one.

From developing policies that address public health concerns, to implementing the programs designed to identify at-risk individuals, to promoting the availability of these programs to the public and relevant professional communities, public health initiatives rely on the coordinated efforts of highly educated public health specialists.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Oklahoma

The interdisciplinary Master of Public Health (MPH) is designed to advance the careers of public health professionals interested in moving into positions where they would have greater influence on health policy and program development. These programs also welcome professionals from diverse backgrounds capable of lending their experience and expertise to the public health domain.

Online and part time MPH programs help to provide a degree of flexibility that allows working professionals to earn a graduate degree without compromising their professional commitments.

MPH Program Overview

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

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

ASPH also identified seven crosscutting disciplines they recommend for master’s programs designed to prepare graduates for leadership roles in public health policy and program administration: These are:

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

Focus Areas

Master of Public Health programs offer unique tracks comprised of 12-15 credits that allow public health graduate students to customize their education based on specific career goals. While many universities offer their own specializations, the following represent areas of focus most relevant to health communication, public health policy, programming planning and evaluation, and public health:

Health Communication: The Oklahoma State Department of Health does a phenomenal job of maintaining its health policy measures, continuously updating legislation as possible health risks arise. Oklahoma law now requires newborn screening tests focused on metabolic disorders to help improve early detection and intervention. However, legislation can have little impact if it is not communicated properly to the public.

Health communication experts are responsible for ensuring that the public is made aware of changes to health policy and for providing tools and educational opportunities for members of the public who want to be more proactive about their health. Education and training programs developed in support of the newborn screening legislation were the result of a health communication specialist’s efforts. A health communication MPH specialization focuses around marketing techniques, training and educational development, and the use of crucial teaching and communication skills that can prove invaluable in the professional world.

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: The Oklahoma Policy Institute is dedicated to educating the public and politicians alike about the potential impact of current health policy and legislation. In 2015, their efforts were focused on the potential risks to the people of Oklahoma in the wake of Medicaid expansions being rejected. This all started with an understanding of the current health issues impacting the people of Oklahoma and the political and monetary barriers that influenced the course of that policy decision.

Balancing the political, administrative, and medical knowledge needed to appropriately evaluate health policy is a tricky proposition. MPH students that focus their studies on health policy will find themselves walking the tightrope between these different worlds as they prepare to become influential in the arena of health policy legislation.

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: Researchers for the Oklahoma City Smoke Alarm Project found that Oklahoma City was disproportionately affected by fire-related injuries and death. Researchers determined that this was in part due to a lack of education and poor distribution of fire alarms. In response, researchers made free alarms available and saw an 81 percent drop in the injury rate of their target population.

Program planning and evaluation experts are uniquely equipped to tackle issues like the ones faced by the people of Oklahoma City. Determining the fact that Oklahoma City was experiencing a disproportionate number of fire related deaths all started with an expert in epidemiological data analysis, who had to take the time to ensure that the lack of alarms was if fact the root cause of the rise in injury. With this knowledge, program planning and evaluation specialists were able to develop a program, effectively implement it, and then track how successful the program was in reducing the number of fire related deaths and injuries. Techniques like this are an integral part of a program planning focused MPH and a crucial part of keeping the public safe.

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 A cancer diagnosis is a difficult prospect for many people to handle. Even in a 1st world country like the United States, which provides most members of its population with access to the highest quality medical care available, a cancer diagnosis can be akin to a death sentence. Now imagine that same diagnosis for someone living in a Kenyan refugee camp or the slum of a recovering Balkan city.

Certain diseases impact people disproportionately in different parts of the world who may already be struggling with a whole host of other health concerns like a lack of clean water and the dangers of sex trafficking. Understanding how these issues impact each other and what kind of work can be done at both the local and global levels to help mitigate risk is the responsibility of global health experts. A global health specialized MPH opens doors for professionals to make perspective-shifting decisions about health in communities across the world.

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

As busy working professionals, graduate students are often torn between balancing their active professional life with their academic life. A variety of different part-time options are available for students hoping to complete their schooling with minimal disruptions to personal and work life. These part time programs allow graduate students to take as long as four years to earn a Master of Public Health.

However, some prefer to finish their education as quickly as possible. For students looking to advance their careers immediately, accelerated one-year tracks can speed up the process and help students graduate in as little as 12 months.

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

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that over the ten-year period spanning 2012 to 2022, public health careers will see sustained job growth. The following are job growth projections for public health professions in Oklahoma that typically require a master’s degree for this ten-year projection period:

  • Social and Community Service Managers-12%
  • Statisticians-12%
  • Biological Scientists-1%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors-22%

Salaries for Master’s Educated Public Health Professionals in Oklahoma

The ranges shown below represent the bottom ten percent and top ten percent of earners in Oklahoma for each category as published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014:

  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $17,040 to $47,870
  • Biological Scientists: $31,630 to $88,050
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $29,120 to $82,640
  • Statisticians: $35,130 to $81,790
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Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals with Master’s Degrees in Oklahoma

Academia has to come to an end eventually. Entering into the job market can be a difficult and stressful process for many. However, MPH graduates have many options available to them due to the interdisciplinary nature of the education they receive and the growing number of opportunities available in public health. These public health job listings were found in a survey of job posts from throughout Oklahoma performed in January 2016. (Examples shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to imply a job offer or assurance of employment.):

Community Health Specialist/Educator. Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board

  • Responsibilities
    • Develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate training programs focused towards interactions with the CDC and the Good Health and Wellness initiative
    • Assess need and capacity for health education
    • Implement health education programs and conduct research related to its administration
    • Requirements
      • Teaching experience
      • Proficiency with MS computer programs
      • Minimum of 1 year experience in epidemiology, public health, or project management in the field

    Senior Managing Data Scientist, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development & Commercialization, INC.

    • Responsibilities
      • Establish and implement end to end proof of concept for data analyses across functional areas
      • Create innovative methodologies for data
      • Build proof of concept systems
      • Establish strategic partnerships with technical leadership across functional areas
      • Demonstrate ability to create new and different solutions that align to real work problems and opportunities
    • Requirements
      • Command of principles of machine learning, statistical analysis, data mining algorithms, and mathematical segmentation and modeling
      • Demonstrated willingness to maintain knowledge of current statistical techniques and to develop new methodologies
      • Experience in machine learning and computer science

Microbiologist, Bar-S Foods

  • Responsibilities
    • Work daily in chemistry and microbiology labs processing samples and maintaining quality assurance documentation
    • Develop consistency with quality assurance departments
    • Assist in all areas of the lab as needed
  • Requirements
    • Undergraduate experience in a form of biology or medical science including a minimum of at least 20 semester hours in physical and mathematical sciences