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Public Health in the District of Columbia: Strategies, Goals and what you can do with a Master's in Public Health in DC

The District of Columbia is an exciting place to begin a public health career. Not only does the jurisdiction have an accredited health department that is avidly working on its own ‘Healthy People 2020’ public health goals, it is also home to many national agencies -- and to many organizations that seek to educate and influence lawmakers.

National and International Organizations in DC

The United States Department of Health and Human Services is headquartered in Washington, DC. One of its major centers, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), carries out some services out of a DC Office (http://www.cdc.gov/washington/).

The United Nations Foundation is also headquartered in DC.

Select a DC Public Health Topic:

Local DC Health Goals

The District of Columbia has been an active participant in the Health People 2010 and Healthy People 2020 initiatives (http://doh.dc.gov/page/dc-healthy-people-2020).

The Department of Health and its partners are working toward objectives in a number of areas. Topic areas include the following, among others:

  • Access to health services
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Disability services
  • Foreign-born populations
  • HIV
  • Injury and violence prevention
  • Mental health and mental disorders
  • Nutrition, physical activity, and weight status
  • Oral health
  • Public health infrastructure
  • Sleep health

The Department of Health notes that topics are subject to change.

Healthy People 2020 is based on a results-based accountability plan. DC began by convening stakeholders and progressed to implementation and monitoring of the plan. Documents include strategies for meeting specific objectives. Among the strategies for disability services, for example, is promotion of guidelines for health practitioners to use to discuss transition planning with young people who have special needs.

Data from the first few years of Healthy People 2020 indicated 55% of indicators improving. The remaining indicators were dispersed approximately equally across three categories: worsening, little or no change, and insufficient data (or new data).

DC also has a data development agenda: health concerns that are considered important but where there may not be enough reliable data. Among the mental health agenda items is decreasing childhood trauma (both one-time events and sustained traumatic events). The current strategy includes screening and improving surveillance.

’DC Healthy People 2020’ boasts more than 70 group members. The following are among their job titles:

  • Chief Epidemiologist
  • Health Education Manager
  • Public Health Analyst
  • Public Health Nutritionist
  • Program Director, Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Program
  • Program Manager of Health Services, DC Public Schools
  • Supervisory Public Health Advisor
  • Lead Project Manager, Health Care Reform and Innovation

Public Health Employment

A 2016 public health job search turns up a variety of positions, with options for new career professionals as well as those who have built a history of progressively responsible experience. The following is a sample:

Health Policy Analyst for the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices: This position involves some travel, as analysts provide support to governors and their staff. Other duties can include writing reports and briefs, updating websites, and helping develop workshops. The recruiters note that this position typically goes to individuals who have recently finished grad school or have up to five years of experience beyond their graduate degree.

Public Health Data Communications Lead for Child Health Data Lab: Duties include drafting briefs and authoring newsletters and other public health educational materials. Here the hiring team likes to see at least five to eight years of experience.

Polio and Cross-Cutting Initiatives Director for the United Nations Foundation: This position involves managing polio advocacy efforts and supporting other UNF initiatives.

Child Development Program Manager for Child and Adolescent Health Team: A person hired into this role is responsible for taking a lead role in implementing State Public Health Autism Resource Center activities, assisting with work plans in the areas of early childhood development and autism/ developmental disabilities, making presentations, carrying out necessary research, and tracking and analyzing best practices.

Public Health Education Options

Public health education comprises five core areas: behavioral sciences, environmental sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, and health policy and administration. A student can pursue a concentration in any of these areas -- or a concentration in a more specialized area. There is something for almost any interest. Policy and management (and related studies) will be of particular interest to those who want to shape national or international policy.

Students from around the nation choose to pursue public health degrees in the District of Columbia. Concentrations at the master’s level include health policy, global health communications, global health epidemiology, community-oriented primary care, and public health communication and marketing, among others. Choices at the bachelor’s level are more limited. Students can pursue a generalist curriculum or a curriculum in exercise science.

A student may also opt for online study through any of many schools, public or private. Many online school offer MPH degrees. Some offer bachelor’s degrees in public health; health education and health management are among the possible emphasis areas at the bachelor’s level.

Real-world experience is an important part of a program, especially at the graduate level. Some students go beyond degree requirements and seek out competitive internship programs.

Many public health schools hold programmatic accreditation through the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Some prestigious internships are only available to students who complete programs that are CEPH-accredited.

Other internships are available to any student attending any school that holds appropriate accreditation at the institutional level. The DC Department of Health has its own internship (http://doh.dc.gov/service/college-student-internship-program).

Additional Resources

The District of Columbia Department of Health (http://doh.dc.gov/) is accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).

The DC chapter of the Public Health Association is the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (http://mwpha.org/). The theme of the 2016 conference was ‘The Road to Equity’. The MWPHA has provided links to a number of organizations that may be of interest to public health professionals (http://mwpha.org/links-resources/). Included are links to health departments in bordering areas of Virginia and Maryland.