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Public Health at the Forefront in Idaho: What you can do with your MPH program in Idaho

The Get Healthy Idaho initiative is an ambitious one: to improve state health by shifting the focus away from traditional clinical service delivery toward population level incentives. Public health professionals are at the forefront in Idaho! They are a group of highly dedicated and highly educated professionals.

Select an Idaho Public Health Topic:

Idaho Public Health Infrastructure

The primary responsibility of overseeing health at the state level falls to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. There are eight divisions. The Division of Public Health is the one that is most directly concerned with public health. However, other divisions such as the Division of Family and Community Services are also of interest to public health professionals.

Recent years have seen the development of several large-scale projects that link individuals from many organizations, both governmental and nongovernmental. Idaho has received a test grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). The goal is to simultaneously improve outcomes and reduce costs. Under the test grant, Idaho is focusing on the following priority health areas: childhood obesity, comprehensive diabetes care, and tobacco cessation.

Idaho also has a vision that goes somewhat beyond the CMMI vision of integrating care. The Get Healthy Idaho initiative describes three levels of service: traditional clinical care, innovative care, and community wide approaches. (Innovative approaches take a more narrow population approach whereby an individual patient is linked with resources in the community.)

Asthma is an example of an issue that can be approached from three levels. At the first level, there is a healthcare practitioner who diagnoses, treats, and provides an asthma action plan; the patient receives medication and guidance. At the next level, a Community Health Worker (CHW) would be involved; the CHW could identify triggers and provide counseling. The third level would involve the broader community. Actions might include setting air quality regulations and housing standards and working to eliminate smoking.

Get Healthy Idaho overlaps with the state SHIP plan. Access to care was identified as one of the initial priority areas. Here geography is a factor. Fully 18 of Idaho's counties are so rural that they are classified as frontier. The whole state, moreover, is a mental health professional shortage area.

Other priorities include tobacco, diabetes, and obesity.

Idaho credits many organizations for their contributions to the Get Healthy Idaho initiative. The following are just a few:

  • Eastern Idaho Public Health District
  • Idaho Healthcare Coalition
  • Panhandle Health District 1
  • St. Alphonsus Health System
  • United Way of Treasure Valley

Public Health Education

Idaho may be a very rural state, but its residents have access to the same types of educational programs that students in more populous states do. They may select programs accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) or other closely related programs that are offered through regionally accredited institutions.

Idaho has one CEPH-accredited program, which is available online; it is generalist. There are many more programs available through online schools located in other states. Concentrations include health promotion, prevention science, health services policy and management, dental public health, and epidemiology and biostatistical methods (among others).

All CEPH-accredited graduate programs will include a practicum experience. Programs also include a culminating experience which may take any of various forms; in some cases it is an extension of the practicum experience. Options vary from school to school. Master’s students at Idaho State University complete an internship and a project or thesis.

Programs can be quite competitive. Many, but not all, public health schools utilize the Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS) application process.

Students can take the initial steps as early as secondary school. They may have the opportunity to learn about public health and practice some skills through participation in the Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA).

Training is an ongoing process. Some public health professionals may receive training through the Region X Northwest Public Health Training Center (https://nnphi.org/member/region-x-northwest-public-health-training-center/?parent_id=60).

Public Health Employment

With so much going on -- research, data analysis, policy, education, and oversight -- there are public health career options for people with a variety of skill sets.

Some public health professionals are employed by governmental agencies. State job classifications are described on the site of the Idaho Division of Human Resources. The following positions may be of interest to public health professionals:

  • Health program manager
  • Health program specialist
  • Health education specialist
  • Health operations field coordinator
  • Senior health education specialist
  • Human services project manager
  • Health and safety specialist
  • Program research and development analyst
  • Epidemiologist

Requirements will vary, depending on the specific program as well as the job classification.

The following are representative of recent openings, both governmental and nongovernmental:

  • Public Health Program Manager III
  • Health Education Specialist
  • Senior Health Education Specialist for the Risk Reduction and Prevention Section
  • Environmental Health Specialist
  • Healthy Living Center Coordinator for the YMCA

Additional Resources

The Idaho Public Health Association is the state affiliate of the American Public Health Association; it has been a presence with Idaho for more than 60 years. The website IPHA has some resources specifically for students (http://www.ipha.wildapricot.org/page-245894).