Public health and community health professionals may not work with patients directly, but they play an important role in creating healthcare plans and awareness campaigns. Before deciding if healthcare administration is the right path, it’s important to understand the difference between public health and community health.
Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. Public health professionals work to prevent the spread of illness in a particular population, which can be as small as a single neighborhood or as large as an entire country. Their work is largely preventive, as they take steps to ensure that a population has clean food and water, and design informational campaigns to teach the public about health and wellness. They also work to understand the spread of disease in certain populations, particularly after a health-related outbreak, and provide vital information to key decision-makers, both in the healthcare sphere and in government. In this way, public health plays a vital role in making sure that a population is as healthy as possible.
Community health has a similar goal, but focuses on how factors such as socioeconomic hardship and cultural standards affect overall health. The work of community health professionals is to help reduce health gaps caused by differences in race and ethnicity, location, social status, income, and other factors that can affect health. Often, they design health education programs to reach communities and encourage healthy behaviors.
Those interested in public health’s scientific aspects can pursue jobs such as: Epidemiologist (a scientist who studies disease outbreaks), Public health engineer (a professional who ensures that healthcare infrastructure and equipment are properly designed), Biostatistician (a scientist who uses math and statistics to help plan public health initiatives).
Those more interested in policy development and legislation can pursue careers such as: medical writer (a writer who creates documents, such as press releases and educational materials, to promote health policies), health promotion program coordinator (a manager who oversees the development of public health programs), hospital administrator (a healthcare center manager who works to coordinate healthcare programs at a facility).
Students interested in community health also have numerous options and can work for various health-related organizations on careers such as health coaching (a mentor who helps promote wellness and healthy living, either as a private business or through a healthcare facility), community health worker (a professional who works to improve population) or healthcare analyst (a professional who evaluates medical data to better understand and improve local hospitals and other healthcare centers).