What you can do with Master’s in Public Health in Kansas: Helping to meet statewide goals in Public Health

Kansas public health professionals work for many organizations from governmental departments to nonprofits. They are forming partnerships and working across sectors to meet statewide goals; recent projects such as ‘Healthy Kansas 2020’ have been the work of many.

Public health leaders come from different backgrounds but are typically highly educated.

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Kansas Public Health Systems

Responsibility for public health falls to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Division of Public Health.

Major divisions include the following:

  • Bureau of Oral Health
  • Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics
  • Bureau of Community Health Systems
  • Bureau of Health Promotion
  • Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention
  • Bureau of Family Health

Kansas has approximately 100 Local Health Districts, or LHDs. Three local health departments have been accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board. They are the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, and the Sedgwick County Health Department.

Statewide Health Goals

Kansas, like many states, participates in Healthy People 2020. This is an assessment and objective-setting initiative that involves many stakeholders. The following themes were identified by the Kansas team:

  • Healthy Living
  • Healthy Communities
  • Access to Services

‘Healthy living’ strategies include fostering activity and healthy eating and promoting tobacco control. ‘Access to service’ strategies includes expanding access to services that address root causes of health issues and promoting integrated healthcare delivery. The ‘Health communities’ strategy is to foster community design and environments that promote health.

Included among the ‘healthy living’ objectives are expanding access to healthy foods through work sites and child care centers; one strategy is to increase the number of providers who are implementing or participating in programs like the Nemours Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative and the Early Childhood Wellness Project.

Another objective is to increase local food sourcing. Activities include expanding the farmer’s market system, increasing enrollment in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and promoting Electronic Benefits Transfers (EBT) at farmer’s markets.

The Chronic Disease State Plan builds off the Healthy People 2020 plan. Included among the objectives are the following:

  • Increase the percentage of adults who have had age appropriate screening
  • Increase communities that have the capacity to lead diabetes self-management programs
  • Increase the percentage of youth who consume the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Increase the percentage of people with high blood pressure who have self-management programs

The Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Health Institute, a member of the National Network of Public Health Institutes, is a nonprofit that has worked with governmental organizations on a number of initiatives. KHI employs health analysts at the master’s level. Current openings (late 2016) include health policy analyst and research analyst.

Health policy analysts are expected to have knowledge of various healthcare issues including access, behavioral health, and healthcare finance; they are expected to develop collaborative relationships across sectors. Research analysts must have strong qualitative or quantitative skills. Candidates are to have master’s degrees in relevant fields.

The analysts currently on staff have a variety of graduate degrees, including Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Public Policy (MPP); some analysts are MDs or PhDs.

Other Public Health Employment Opportunities

Public health professionals can work in the private or public sector, taking on roles such as epidemiologist, disease intervention specialist, health services administrator, or wellness coordinator. The following positions were advertised in September of 2016.

  • Public Health Emergency Planner for Johnson County
  • Statewide Coordinator of Refugee Health Services for the International Rescue Committee (Wichita location)
  • Safety Administrator for SpiritAero Systems
  • Healthcare Quality Review for Creative Business Solutions

Public Health Degree Programs

A prospective public health professional will need to enroll in a degree program through an accredited institution. Program-level accreditation by CEPH is not mandatory but ensures that the program has met standards that are specific to the discipline. Nationwide, there are some prestigious internships that are tied to program-level accreditation.

There are multiple accredited in-state programs at the master’s and doctoral levels; one program allows students to earn a Bachelor of Science en route to a Master of Public Health. There are also many programs available through online schools in other states.

Bachelor’s level students complete a capstone while graduate students complete a field experience and some form of culminating experience; field experience can be completed under the auspices of an out-of-state program. It is common for graduate programs to require their students to complete both a thesis or project and an oral defense. Students will need to check with the individual school to find out what their options will be. They may also wish to inquire about internship partners.

The concentration and culminating experience may help the student carve out a future career path (e.g. health promotion or policy). In-state programs include common concentrations such as social and behavioral health and epidemiology as well as less common ones such as Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses.

Additional Resources

Contact information for state and local public health staff can be found in the 2016 Kansas Public Health Directory (http://www.kdheks.gov/olrh/download/health_directory.pdf).

The Kansas Public Health Association, state affiliate of the American Public Health Association, is an additional professional resource (http://www.kpha.us/awards).