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Why work in public health?

Health Trainer and client at swimming pool

The rewards

Working in public health is a fantastically rewarding career.

Here is what some people say about what they do:

  • "This is a really rewarding job. I get such a buzz from seeing people’s health improve."

  • “My proudest accomplishment is the development of a client-centred service that is making men’s health matter.”

  • “I really enjoy contributing to improving and protecting health by impacting on the local built and natural environment in which people live, work and play.”

  • “Working as a doctor to bring government departments and organisations together has been rewarding.”

  • "It was great to know that our work on controlling a food poisoning outbreak protected other people from further harm."

Whose health do public health workers affect?

Working in public health means working to improve everyone’s health, to prevent ill-health, and to make a real difference to people’s lives. You can do this in many different ways:

At local levels:

  • with individuals and families
  • with and for local communities
  • with organisations that deliver services to individuals, families and communities (e.g. local authorities, health services, charities and independent organisations)
  • in teaching and research

At regional or national levels:

  • with organisations that plan services and develop policy (e.g. government departments, head offices for health services, social care organisations, charitable organisations, large companies)

At international levels:

  • with other countries and organisations to control the global spread of diseases (such as pandemic influenza, ebola) or in responding to natural disasters with a major impact on public health.
  • with organisations whose main focus is improving health outcomes in low- or middle-income settings (e.g. charitable organisations, UN organisations). More information.

What skills and knowledge do public health workers have?

While working, you will be gathering valuable experience and increasing your knowledge and skills in various aspects of public health.

You will be developing knowledge on subjects such as:

  • differing health needs
  • what influences our health and wellbeing
  • how to prevent ill health and promote health

You will be developing skills in areas such as:

  • analysing and interpreting information on people and health
  • reviewing literature on what works to make a difference
  • effective communication
  • joint working and leadership

These are just a few examples of the kinds of skills and knowledge you might gain. There exists a very detailed framework of all the skill and knowledge elements (competencies) in public health. It is called the Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework.  


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