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The New Mission for Public Health in New Jersey: What can you do with a Master's in Public Health in NJ?

In September of 2016, New Jersey held a summit on population health. This event was one of many designed to transform health at the population level. There are a lot of factors that contribute to a healthy population -- and a lot of professionals working together to promote it!

Select a New Jersey Public Health Topic:

The New Jersey Public Health System

The New Jersey Department of Health is the primary agency responsible for state health services, including public health. The following are among the many programs and offices:

  • Chronic Disease
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Environmental Health
  • Food Safety
  • Minority and Multicultural Health
  • Public Health Laboratories
  • Veterinary Public Health

New Jersey has distinguished leaders at the helm. Commissioner Cathleen Bennet created the Office of Population Health. Her article “Building a Population Health Village” was featured in the Winter 2016 edition of MD Advisor. Bennet wrote about New Jersey’s transformation from a focus on episodic clinical care to a focus on wellness, prevention, and community engagement.

State Health Objectives

Health has become assessment-focused. Healthy New Jersey 2020 is the state version of the national Healthy People 2020 initiative. New Jersey has set specific objectives in five domains:

  • Health and wellness
  • Maternal and child health
  • Environment
  • Chronic and infectious disease
  • Public health delivery

These broad areas encompass a number of goals. Maternal and child health, for example, includes two main areas of focus: immunizations and improved birth outcomes. Progress toward objectives in this and other domains is displayed on the Department of Health website (http://www.state.nj.us/health/chs/hnj2020/). In late 2016, data shows that the state has reached its Healthy NJ 2020 goal of reducing smoking among pregnant women and is progressing toward its objectives in increasing first trimester care, increasing the percentage of infants who have been breastfed, and decreasing infant mortality. However, recent data indicates it is not progressing toward its objectives in reducing alcohol use among pregnant women or reducing low birth weight.

The Healthy Cities and Counties Challenge

New Jersey boasts two of the 50 finalists in the Healthy Cities and Counties Challenge. Jersey City and Camden are both focusing on healthy behaviors. The Healthy Cities and Counties challenge is a competition with more than a million dollars in prize money (http://www.healthiestcities.org/). Partners include the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Counties, and the AETNA Foundation.

Exploring Public Health Careers

Students have many options for developing their understanding of the public health profession, accruing experience, and making contacts – and they can begin the process early.

Students who participate in the Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA) can participate in national service projects and enter competitions. The following New Jersey state conference competitions may be of interest to future public health professionals:

  • Extemporaneous Health Poster
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Researched Persuasive Speaking
  • Health Career Display (Teamwork Event)
  • Public Service Announcement (Teamwork Event)
  • Nutrition (Knowledge Test)
  • Transcultural Health Care (Knowledge Test)

High school graduates sometimes build their resumes – and earn money for college – by participating in AmeriCorps service projects.

Public Health Degree Programs in New Jersey

Prospective New Jersey public health students can choose from a number of options, including state universities or online programs. The minimum standard is regional accreditation at the institutional level; programmatic accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) will facilitate some career goals.

There are some components that are common to all accredited master's programs in public health. Programs include a range of coursework that is generally recognized as "core" and also include some type of practicum experience. There can, however, be a good deal of variation from program to program. One consideration is concentration. The following are among the concentrations available in New Jersey:

  • Biostatistics
  • Global Public Health
  • Health Education & Behavioral Science

Some students pursue articulated programs that allow them to begin taking MPH courses at the bachelor's level. Others pursue a different type of joint degree program and earn dual graduate degrees. The other degree may be clinical (for example, MD) or organizational (for example, Master of Public Policy, or MPP). MPH-PsyD and MPH-JD are among the options.

Many schools participate in a centralized application process through the Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS). Students have the option of attending the SOPHAS Virtual Fair to learn more about the ones that they are considering.

Public Health Employment in NJ

Public health professionals work for a wide variety of employers: governmental agencies, public health foundations and institutes, healthcare systems, and even corporations. The following is a sampling of recent positions and degree expectations:

  • Health Researcher for Mathematica Policy Research: Doctoral degree.
  • Public Health- Oral Health Program Manager for the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Master’s degree preferred.
  • Associate Quality Practice Manager for WellCare: Bachelor’s degree.
  • Epidemiologist for Decision Resources Group: PhD or master’s in epidemiology or public health.
  • Cancer Epidemiologist for the Life Raft Group: Doctoral degree or relevant master’s degree.
  • Health Educator for the Gay Men's Project of the South Jersey AIDS Alliance: Variable education and experience requirements. (A person can be considered with less than a bachelor’s.)

Many employers set a minimum level of experience as well.

Additional Resources

The New Jersey Public Health Association is an additional professional resource (http://njpha.org). The NJPHA is a state affiliate of the American Public Health Association.