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Public Health Progress in Delaware: Strategies and Goals include earning a Master's Degree in Public Health in Delaware

Delaware’s public health professionals work for governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Often they forge partnerships that cross beyond department lines. Leaders are highly educated. Many hold master’s or doctoral degrees. Some hold dual credentials like MPH and MD.

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Delaware Public Health Infrastructure

The Delaware Division of Public Health is one of 19 health departments nationwide that holds state accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).

The Delaware DPH is responsible for providing many varied services. The following are among the sections:

  • Community Health Systems
  • Epidemiology, Health Data, and Informatics
  • Family Health Systems
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Health Systems Protection

The Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Section counts the Office of Health Education, the cancer registry, the Bureau of Health Promotion, and the Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention Program among its offices and programs. Health Systems Protection has the responsibility for monitoring lead and drinking water (among many other services).

Delaware has released its first state health improvement plan (http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/sha.html). The 2014 “Goals and Strategies Report” focuses on ten strategic issues. Among them are the following:

  • Improving coordination of care
  • Addressing behavioral health and mental well-being
  • Educating people in ways that promote preventative action and lasting change
  • Adapting infrastructure and policy to meet the needs of an aging population

The document cites many possible partners, including governmental departments, hospital systems, insurance carriers, and nonprofits.

Spotlight on Delaware WIC

In August 2016, the Delaware WIC Program (part of the Delaware Division of Public Health) piloted a program in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture. WIC participants were given vouchers to use at Delaware farmer's markets (http://news.delaware.gov/2016/08/24/wic-participants-can-now-use-wic-farmers-market-coupons-at-select-delaware-farmers-markets). The goal was to give WIC participants (low income/ at-risk women who are pregnant or have young children) greater access to fresh produce. Delaware is not the first state to partner with local farmer’s markets.

Some WIC decisions are made at the state level. In some ways, the Delaware allowable foods list is more restrictive than the national one. Canned and frozen fruits are disallowed. However, Delaware does allow organic produce. (Some states disallow organic produce for reasons of cost.)

Public health leaders -- whether associated with WIC or other programs -- share some common methodologies. They research. They prioritize and make decisions. They develop professional partnerships. They monitor their programs after inception.

Education for Public Health

The Delaware Journal of Public Health recently published an article about successes in getting people to consume fewer sugar sweetened beverages through the One Less Challenge (https://issuu.com/dam-dpha/docs/final-de-jph-june). Communications were framed in a positive manner – e.g. a testimonial to having loss a little weight loss through the One Less Challenge.

The author of “Social Marketing Food and Beverage Choices” is an Ed.D who earned his degree in health promotion and education; these branches are sometimes classified as behavioral sciences.

Students can earn master's degrees in fields that are related to public health from state schools. Health promotion is among the choices.

Depending on his or her career goals, though, a Delaware student may need to look beyond the state border to get an education. There are many programs, online and traditional. Whatever the mode of instruction, an MPH program should include experiential learning. A student often completes a substantial project by program completion -- and makes some contacts out in the professional world.

The program should provide some background in the core areas of public health, including behavioral sciences, environmental sciences, epidemiology and biostatistics, and policy and administration. The student may concentrate on a core area (such as biostatistics) or in a very specialized area such as global epidemiology or public health nutrition.

Some students choose to earn dual degrees, for example an MPH and a Master of Social Work.

Students have many choices at the undergraduate level. A student who is interested in enrolling in an MPH program in environmental sciences might opt for a program in the hard sciences. Business can be a useful undergraduate major for a student who plans to pursue further education in the administration of health programs. Some students do opt for public health study at the bachelor’s level.

According to the Association of Schools of Public Health, graduate schools look for professional experience and clear career goals as well as academic achievement.

Accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is a signal that a program has met a set of widely recognized discipline-specific standards. Its importance depends on individual career goals. As of 2016, Delaware has no programs that are accredited by CEPH.

Public Health Employment

Qualified applicants may find jobs in the public or private sector. Among the recent open positions are the following:

Population Health Specialist II for Nemours: Responsibilities include analyzing child health issues, working toward population-level interventions, and contributing to practice transformation initiatives.

Environmental Scientist IV for the State of Delaware: Duties including conducting field studies and technical reviews, carrying out statistical analysis, and creating regulator documents. The State seeks a very specific type of education and experience.

Additional Resources

The Delaware Public Health Association is the state chapter of the American Public Health Association (http://de-pha.org). The Delaware Journal of Public Health is a cooperative effort of the Delaware Public Health Association and the Delaware Academy of Medicine.