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Public Health Job Market Trends and Advice to Students

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February 10, 2021

Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) Policy and Community Engagement Core Co-lead Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH recently spoke about current job market trends in the field of public health with Zippia, a career research company. Below is an excerpt from her interview.

Zippia: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we'll see in the job market given the pandemic?

Amy Carroll-Scott: Despite the dramatic economic declines and unemployment increases, I anticipate individuals in the workforce with public health training will be in high demand in the coming years. However, we didn't see this much during the first year of the pandemic, except for an extraordinary demand for contact tracers. That's because there was low investment in the public health during the Trump administration. If the Obama administration provided any clue to how the Biden administration will invest in public health, we can expect more funding for critical population-based prevention efforts. This may include higher-level solutions to improve access to testing, vaccines, and treatment, such as regional, cross-health system electronic health record sharing or service delivery. This would rely on those within the health care delivery system with population health expertise to understand the populations most vulnerable to the disease - regardless of the health care system they are patients of - and coordinate COVID responses that meet people where they are (i.e., where they live, work, attend school). Within health care systems, this expertise usually falls to those with public health training like a master's in public health (MPH).

Other investments may include support for outreach and education for testing and vaccinations. With record-high rates of vaccine hesitancy, fueled by misinformation and mistrust about the vaccines, this will be a huge need in the coming months and perhaps for years to come if coronavirus becomes endemic to the population like the flu. The workforce this requires is very different than the last point, and is best conducted by community health workers, who are community members with expertise naigating medical, public health and other related systems (e.g., housing, employment supports, local benefits programs) and can play a connecting role. During this pandemic, community health workers have also been instrumental in helping community members get access to wifi or other technological needs to be able to access telehealth and telemedicine platforms, testing and vaccine sign-up portals, homeschooling platforms, etc. Also important will be individuals with the training and expertise to supervise this workforce, coordinate efforts regionally, and integrate the community health worker model with patient navigators from health care systems and case managers from social service agencies to create seamless systems of support for the populations and communities most vulnerable to infection, worse prognoses, and low vaccine uptake.

Lastly, we will always need epidemiologists to understand trends and patterns of disease transmission and outcomes, including which characteristics put individuals, populations, and geographically-defined communities at higher and lower risk. Many of these risks are social and economic in nature, what we call the social determinants of health (e.g., poverty, unemployment, systemic racism, living in an economically excluded or disinvested area). This means that both infectious disease epidemiology and social epidemiology are important workforce and training needs in this climate.

Read the full interview here.