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Public Health Careers in Louisiana: Creating a blueprint for Louisiana's futrue using your Public Health degree

Louisiana’s State Health Assessment and Improvement Plan, Creating a Blueprint for our Future, includes an infographic: Health, the team declares, is driven 30% by genetics and family history, 20% by environmental and social factors, 40% by personal behaviors -- and just 10% by medical care.

Physicians and other practitioners, acting in their traditional roles, are limited in their ability to create a healthy population. Access alone isn’t enough, stress public health professionals.

Who are the public health professionals helping guide Louisiana’s future? Some are clinical practitioners; physicians sometimes take on very high leadership roles. However, many public health professionals have training only at the macro or population level. Their education may be at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level.

Select a Louisiana Public Health Topic:

Louisiana Public Health Agencies

In Louisiana, responsibility for the public health falls to the Office of Public Health, or OPH, a part of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

The following are among the major OPH divisions:

  • Center for Community and Preventative Health
  • Bureau of Emergency Medical Services
  • Center for Community Preparedness
  • Center for Environmental Health
  • Health Promotion Team
  • Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health

Louisiana is divided into nine administrative districts. There are a total of 64 parishes. Louisiana public health is unique in its level of centralization; 56 of its 64 parishes have units staffed by members of the Office of Public Health.

Louisiana Health Goals

Creating a Blueprint for our Future is data-driven. The SHA/ SHIP team amassed data about Louisiana and made comparisons among Louisiana populations as well as comparisons with the U.S. as a whole.

The team noted that 28.57% of Louisianans live in "food deserts" – this is almost 5% more than that of the U.S. population as a whole. Food deserts are low income areas where a substantial number of people do not live near a supermarket or large grocery store. (There may be other nearby food sources -- like convenience stores.) 10% of Louisiana’s population have limited access – this compares to 6% of the nation as a whole.

The team set priorities for the years 2016 to 2020. Recognizing that chronic disease management and healthy eating overlapped, they termed one priority area “promote healthy lifestyles”. Other priority areas include the following:

  • Support behavioral health
  • Assure healthcare access
  • Promote economic development
  • Build public health infrastructure

Another infographic shows the public health agency in the center of a web that includes hospitals, schools, nonprofit organizations, tribal health, transportation, law enforcement, elected officials, foundations -- and a number of other organizations.

Creating a Blueprint for our Future boasts hundreds of stakeholders across regions.

Education for State Public Health Careers

The Louisiana Department for State Civil Service website lists minimum standards for state job classifications (http://agency.governmentjobs.com/louisiana/default.cfm). The following may be of interest to public health professionals :

Environmental Health Scientist: A person can be considered for Environmental Health Scientist I on the basis of a bachelor's degree in a qualifying field (for example, public health or industrial hygiene). Environmental Health Scientist Coordinator will require a master's degree in a qualifying field.

Disease Intervention Specialist: There are multiple classifications. A Disease Intervention Specialist II will need either a bachelor’s degree and a year of experience or a master's degree; to qualify, the master’s degree must be in a field such as public health or epidemiology.

Epidemiologist: For this, one will need a graduate degree. The hiring agency can accept a doctoral degree in epidemiology or a master's degree in epidemiology and a year of experience. A master's degree in public health can be substituted for a degree in epidemiology if it included a minimum 12 semester hours in one or more of the following fields: epidemiology, biostatistics, maternal and child health, tropical medicine, occupational health, and/ or international health.

Program Monitor-Department of Health and Hospitals: There are multiple eligibility avenues, including 1) a bachelor's degree and two years of experience 2) a master's degree in a qualifying field and a year of experience, or 3) a doctoral degree in a qualifying field. Public health is among the qualifying fields.

Public Health Regional Administrator: The minimum requirement is a master's degree and five years of experience (or a doctoral degree and three).

The Louisiana Public Health Institute

Eight professionals listed as “external partners” of the SHA/ SHIP project are from the Louisiana Public Health Institute. The Louisiana Public Health Institute is a 501c3 nonprofit with a track record of coordinating and managing public health initiatives.

The following are among the positions recently advertised:

Clinical Transformation Analyst: A candidate needs a master’s degree in a field such as public health or healthcare administration (as well as several years of relevant experience).

Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) Cessation Manager: TFL Cessation Manager is another master’s level position.

Behavioral Health Coordinator: A candidate may be considered on the basis of either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a field such as public health, social work, or counseling. The amount of experience will vary by degree level.

Public Health Degree Options

A public health degree typically includes coursework in all core areas, including epidemiology, behavioral and social sciences, policy and administration, and environmental sciences. Core areas are broad; coursework in developing public health campaigns would be considered social and behavioral science. The program may include additional coursework in a particular core area. Some concentrations include coursework drawn from other departments of the university. Among the many concentrations are maternal and child health, nutrition, health administration -- and even parasitology.

Practical and culminating experiences will provide opportunities to focus one’s education toward a possible career path. A CEPH-accredited bachelor’s program will include a capstone while a graduate program will include a practicum and a culminating experience; the two may or may not be integrated.

Depending on career goals, an undergraduate degree in biological sciences, behavioral sciences, or even business may be a foundation for graduate study. A person can qualify for some public health positions (for example, health scientist) with degrees in the natural sciences.

Additional Resources

The Louisiana Public Health Association is the state affiliate of the American Public Health Association (http://www.publichealthla.org). The LPHA has a scholarship program.