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Public Health is a Success in Nebraska

Nebraska public health professionals have many roles. They work for governmental and nongovernmental organizations: administering and managing programs, analyzing data, determining the etiology of disease, and designing everything from public health campaigns to worksite wellness programs. They may take on multiple responsibilities, providing input on statewide initiatives and advocating for health issues through their professional associations.

Select a Nebraska Public Health Topic:

Governmental Public Health in Nebraska

The primary responsibility for public health in Nebraska falls to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (and particularly to the Division of Public Health). Some services are delivered through local health departments.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) as are the East Central District Health Department and Panhandle Public Health District.

The Nebraska Division of Public Health is comprised of the following units:

  • Community and Rural Health Planning Unit
  • Environmental Health Unit
  • Epidemiology and Informatics Unit
  • Health Promotion Unit
  • Investigations Unit
  • Licensure Unit
  • Lifespan Health Services Unit
  • Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Response
  • Vital Records Unit

These nine units are comprised of many programs -- and employ many professionals with varying areas of expertise. The Health Promotion Unit, for example, includes the Cancer and Smoking Disease Research Program, Chronic Renal Disease Program, and Diabetes Prevention and Control Program among others. The Unit also administers the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant Program.

Chronic disease and its prevention have, by necessity, been the subject of much assessment and focused activity in recent years. The rate of chronic diseases is slightly lower in Nebraska than in the nation as a whole. Even so, chronic disease carries a high societal cost that could be reduced by changing modifiable behavior. Extrapolated data indicates the direct monetary costs of diabetes in Nebraska to be over a billion.

Also of concern are the significant disparities that exist between populations in Nebraska. Nebraska's Native Americans were four times more likely to dies of diabetes than white populations.

The Nebraska Public Health Improvement Plan: Coordinated Chronic Disease and Prevention Priority is in effect from 2013 to 2017. It is intended to guide and support not only the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, but a wide variety of stakeholders, including local agencies, health care providers, policy makers, and even consumers.

Nebraska Success Story: Project Extra Mile

Project Extra Mile has been in Nebraska since the 1990's. The intent was to reduce underage drinking and the harm it causes -- and the statistics indicate there has been progress. One of Project Extra Mile’s areas of focus has been providing technical support and otherwise assisting with compliance checks. The organization has also focused on awareness, advocacy, and youth leadership. Youth leaders have created public awareness messages for the holidays.

Project Extra Mile was among the success stories featured by the Healthy People 2020 initiative in 2016. The initiative reported that Omaha had seen a large drop in noncompliance with serving minors – from 41% of businesses in 1997 to 8% in 2015. Some enforcement patrols saw a significant decline in alcohol violations among youths during the years 2006 to 2014 (https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/healthy-people-in-action/story/nebraska%E2%80%99s-project-extra-mile-program-leads-to-reduced-alcohol).

Legislative advocacy continues. Interested individuals can view 2016 legislative tracking on the Project Extra Mile website.

The organization sought an executive director in 2016.

Public Health Education in Nebraska

Public health education takes place at at least the bachelor’s level; the majority of programs are at the graduate level. However, students can begin building their knowledge base early. Nebraska has many chapters of the Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA) that serve students at the secondary level. Students can participate in leadership events and even competitions. Among the competitive events are epidemiology and health issues examinations, national service projects, public service announcements, and researched persuasive speaking (http://nebraskahosa.org/competitive-events.html).

Nebraska students can earn their public health degrees in Omaha or at home; many accredited programs are offered online. Public health programs strive to build a common knowledge and skills base; many also offer concentrations such as maternal and child health, health promotion, epidemiology, or health preparedness.

Master’s students can expect an internship and some type of culminating experience; this may vary a good deal from institution. Students typically have opportunities to go beyond curriculum requirements, whether through internship, participation in public health organizations, or collaboration on research projects. The public health school will likely be able to provide information about staff research interests and/ or current areas of research. At the University of Nebraska, for example, current research topics include the following among, many others:

  • Assisting Native populations in disease surveillance and identification of priority areas
  • Integrating safe play areas within farms
  • Point-of-sales tobacco marketing and its effect on smoking cessation

Nebraska Public Health Careers

Employers often note a minimum, or preferred, education level. The following examples are from 2016:

  • Quality Improvement Advisor for CIMRO of Nebraska: The organization noted a preference for MPH or RN candidates, but could consider bachelor's level candidates who had experience in public health.
  • Emergency Response Coordinator for Two Rivers Public Health Department: The agency could consider candidate's with bachelor's degrees in public health or other relevant fields.
  • Minority Health Administrator I for the Nebraska Division of Public Health: The agency could consider bachelors or master's level candidates; baccalaureate level candidates had a two year experience requirement.
  • Extension Educator - Food, Nutrition and Health at the University of Nebraska: Here a master’s degree represented a minimum standard. Acceptable degrees included public health, nutrition and dietetics, or exercise and health science, among others.

Additional Resources

The Public Health Association of Nebraska is the state affiliate of the American Public Health Association (http://publichealthne.org).