Public Health Jobs in Oklahoma Making a Difference: What you can do with an MPH degree in Oklahoma

Oklahoma reported significant improvements in the first five years after implementing a statewide health improvement plan. The tobacco rate, for example, was down, though still higher than that of the nation as a whole. The state’s health systems have their challenges, but forward-thinking individuals are working to effect change. One way to foster better health with fewer resources is to shift emphasis to prevention and early detection. This is largely the realm of public health.

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Oklahoma Public Health Infrastructure

Public health falls under the domain of the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). Major units include Community and Family Health Services, Protective Health Services, Office of the State Epidemiologist, and Office of the Senior Deputy Commissioner.

Oklahoma also boasts 68 county health departments and two county-city health departments ( The Oklahoma City and Tulsa county-city health departments are considered independent; they are not part of the OSDH health network.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health and Oklahoma communities participate in an initiative called Turning Point, which was originally established with grant moneys from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Turning Point has helped support many local initiatives. There are 12 regional consultants, each supporting a group of counties (

Oklahoma Health Goals

The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan (OHIP) was initiated in 2010. OHIP sets goals in the following areas:

  • Children’s health
  • Tobacco use
  • Social determinants of health
  • Behavioral health
  • Obesity
  • Healthcare transformation

Healthcare transformation involves several initiatives designed to 1) prevent illness 2) reward health systems monetarily for improving population health and integrating their services with community care, and 3) provide better care for the chronically ill, thus, reducing their usage. OHIP notes that Oklahoma ranks 49th in spending – this is one of the state’s challenges.

The Department of Health maintains an OHIP website ( OHIP reports improvements in infant mortality, high school obesity, and tobacco usage since the plan was initiated.

OHIP may also be referenced as Healthy Oklahoma 2020. Healthy People 2020 is a national initiative. Many states have their own versions of the initiative.

Worksite and Organizational Wellness

There are many public health stakeholders, among them employers. The Oklahoma State Department of Health contracted with a third party to survey and interview employers. This was done as part of the preparation for the next phase of Oklahoma health improvement planning. 55% of those who completed survey believed that employee health had a significant impact on business. Employers cited many reasons for offering wellness programs, including recruitment. The most often cited reasons were altruistic.

Oklahoma has resources in place to support businesses that promote health. Health at Work, an Oklahoma City-County Health Department program, was among those noted by interviewees.

Certified Healthy Oklahoma is a statewide resource ( The program began as a collaboration between the State Department of Health, the Turning Point Council, and two other partners. Certification status can be extended to many types of organization: businesses, schools, campuses, early childhood settings, communities, congregations, and restaurants. In most cases, the award is recognition. (The company contracted to interview employers about their wellness programs, noted that certification was a source of provide among interviewed businesses.)

Schools and communities have an additional incentive: They may be eligible for grants.

Master’s in Public Health Education

Formal education in public health most often takes place at the graduate level. Public health degree programs build competency in the following core areas:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental health sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Policy and administration
  • Social and behavioral health sciences

Graduate students may choose to concentrate their studies in one of the above core areas or in a more specialized area of public health; there are also interdisciplinary programs. The following are examples of degree programs that are offered in Oklahoma or online:

  • Dental Public Health
  • Food, Nutrition, and Health
  • Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Population Health
  • Public Health Preparedness and Terrorism Response
  • Urban Health

A master’s in Public Health program may award a Master of Public Health (MPH) or a Master of Science (MS). The same school may offer both options. In this case, the MS will likely be the more research-oriented/ degree program.

There are more limited bachelor’s level options within Oklahoma. Able students have the option of beginning their studies at the bachelor’s level and continuing on for a master’s. A national search will turn up more bachelor’s level public health programs.

Some public health professionals take their education all the way to the doctoral level.

Public Health Employment

Nonprofit jobs are listed on the site the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits ( Job seekers will find some internships and entry-level positions.

A broader search will turn up many positions for public health professionals who have built their track records. The following examples are from late 2016:

  • Community Health Manager for Mercy
  • Disease/Data Specialist for the Tulsa City-County Health Department
  • Public Health Specialist II for the State of Oklahoma
  • Wellness Coordinator, Level II for the State Department of Health

Additional Resources

Information about governmental programs is available from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (

Information about Oklahoma community public health partners is available from the Turning Point Council (

The Public Health Institute of Oklahoma (PHIO) is an affiliate member of the National Network of Public Health Institutes ( It provides services such as health policy development, research and evaluation, and convening/ partnering.

The Oklahoma Public Health Association, a state affiliate of the American Public Health Association, serves as an additional professional resource (