What can you do with a Public Health degree in Minnesota?: Public Health coalitions and initiatives involve professionals across all public health sectors

Minnesota has active public health communities. Governmental agencies are engaged in multiple population health assessment and long-term planning projects. Health-related coalitions and initiatives involve people from across sectors.

Select a Minnesota Public Health Topic:

The Minnesota Department of Health

The Minnesota Department of Health has primary responsibility for public health activities. The Department of Health consists of many individual units, each with its own staff and function. The following are among the majors divisions:

  • Division of Community and Family Health
  • Environmental Health Division
  • Division of Health Policy
  • Health Partnerships Division
  • Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Division
  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division

Public health roles are diverse, even within divisions. The Chronic Disease and Environmental Epidemiology Section and the Health Promotion Section are both under the banner of the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Division. The Chronic Disease and Epidemiology Section includes the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System, Center for Occupational Health and Safety, Minnesota Asthma Program, and Environmental Epidemiology Program. Environmental Epidemiology counts the following among its responsibilities: air pollution tracking, surveillance for exposures and hazards, and provision of information that may inform environmental policy making.

The Minnesota Department of Health is accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board as are six local Minnesota Health Departments. Assessment and population level health improvement planning are among the requirements for accreditation.

State Health Assessment and Improvement/ Innovation Plans

SHIP Plan: Minnesota has a State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) which seeks to reduce preventable illness. The Department of Health estimates that medical experiences attributable to tobacco use or exposure were figured at $2.5 billion one a recent year. Those related to obesity were placed at $2.8 billion.

The SHIP plan is dependent on partnerships with organizations that are outside traditional healthcare, for example, schools. Safe Routes to School is a national initiative. In some communities, one will find designated walk-to-school routes, grownup volunteers, and groups of children traveling together in ‘walking buses’. Safe Routes to School means children get more exercise and outside time and sometimes that they arrive at school better prepared to learn.

Minnesota is also striving to increase physical activity and nutrition in early childhood programs. One innovative model is the Learning About Nutrition through Activities (LANA) Preschool Program, in which children get hands-on experience with produce. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is part of the daily routine; cooking and tasting are weekly activities. The curriculum also includes themed learning.

The SHIP vision also calls for smoke-free apartment buildings, master planned biking and walking areas, and voluntary worksite wellness programs.

Healthy Minnesota 2020: Minnesota is keeping track of key health indicators on its Healthy Minnesota 2020 dashboard (http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/healthimprovement/dashboard2016/index.html). Indicators are grouped into four categories: behavioral risk indicators, clinical indicators, illness and disability indicators, and mortality indicators. Indicators which show improvement are marked in green. Among those marked in green: the percentage of third grade children with tooth decay and the percentage of older adults who are missing their teeth. Minnesota’s successes in combatting oral health disparities were profiled by the national Healthy People initiative (https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/healthy-people-in-action/story/addressing-oral-health-disparities-in-minnesota).

Minnesota Food Charter: The Minnesota Food Charter is a plan that specifically addressing nutrition. The Charter notes a number of obstacles to healthy eating:

  • That many people lack the skills to prepare and grow food or to shop well on a limited budget
  • That corner stores and convenience stores may charge more for healthy foods or offer little in the way of healthy foods
  • That it can be difficult for institutions as well as individuals to afford food that is healthy, local and sustainable
  • That institutions and relief programs offer too many unhealthy choices
  • That children don’t get the support they need in developing lifelong habits
  • That even foodservice professionals may lack sufficient food skills

The plan notes many strategies, among them the following:

  • Providing incentives for corner stores and other vendors to offer more healthy foods
  • Establishing nutrition guidelines for organizations that buy quantities of food
  • Providing education to children, adults, and foodservice providers
  • Changing zoning regulations to allow more small-scale food production
  • Implementing incentive programs like “veggie prescriptions” and “market bucks”
  • Providing Native populations who receive U.S. food commodities with more foods that are nutritionally sound and appropriate to the heritage

The Food Charter also addresses problems facing farmers and farm workers; obstacles and strategies are listed in the ‘food infrastructure’ section.

Minnesota is one of five states that reduced its obesity rate between 2014 and 2015 – one of only five to do so at any point during recent years.

SIM Test Grant: Minnesota received a State Innovation Model (SIM) test grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test innovations in service coordination, accountability, and payment; innovation and testing is funded until December of 2017.

Public Health Careers in Minnesota

Public health professionals may take on a variety of specialized roles, including epidemiologist, health educator, program specialist or administrator, policy analyst, and health educator. Graduate level education is an expectation for many, but not all, positions.

The Department of Health recently advertised two different epidemiologist positions. A person could qualify for either position with 1) a master’s degree in a related field (public health, epidemiology, microbiology) or 2) a bachelor’s in a related field and a year of experience. A person who had finished his or her master’s coursework was also eligible even if the degree would not be awarded until after culmination of a thesis or final project. A master’s degree in public health epidemiology was noted among the preferred qualifications for one of the two positions.

A Public Health Preparedness Consultant candidate was expected to have a bachelor’s degree in public health or related field.

Public health professionals are hired by various other employers, including health systems, foundations, and corporate entities. The following are examples of recent postings:

  • Equity Organizer – Healthy Food Access for the American Heart Association
  • Epidemiologist for EMS-Related software
  • Infection Preventionist for a health system

Public Health Degree Options in Minnesota

Programs that hold CEPH accreditation include coursework in all core areas. They provide some preparation for the more quantitative branches of public health as well as for health promotion, administration, and policy. Those who plan careers in epidemiology, biostatistics, or environmental science, however, may wish to select specialized tracks.

There are a number of in-state MPH program options, including the following:

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Public Health Practice
  • Environmental Health
  • Community Health Education

A nationwide search will reveal many specialized programs. The majority are at the master’s and doctoral level; there are some bachelor’s options.

Additional Resources

The Minnesota Public Health Association provides professional development and advocacy (http://www.mpha.net). Among the 2016 legislative efforts are gun violence prevention and funding for Safe Routes to School.