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Examples of roles that contribute to public health

Different professional groups contribute to the public's health by creating environments that enable healthier lifestyles and by protecting health through training and rescue services.

The built environment can have a significant impact on whole population groups. Urban design, for example, has been shown, to influence exercise. The fire and rescue services can educate specific communities, for example, schools on prevention and risk, and help to ensure an emergency does not turn into a catastrophe.

Useful websites include:
WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Cities and Urban Policy


Ways in which the built environment and fire/rescue services can help to promote and protect health and wellbeing include:

  • Redesigning urban streets to reduce car traffic and encourage walking and cycling
  • Creating 'home zone' areas that enable children to play in the streets and for people to interact more easily
  • Participating in health impact assessments of planning applications for large developments
  • Development of waste management strategies that ensure communities can dispose of waste routinely and safely
  • Teaching children about fire prevention and basic first aid
  • Running stalls to help people learn what to do in a medical emergency - such as a cardiac arrest

Specific roles

Neighbourhood planning
Work focuses on neighbourhood regeneration, working with local councils. People doing this work will assess local community needs related to their built environment and implement improvement schemes. Examples include community gardens in deprived urban areas, traffic-calming or better street lighting. This sort of work involves a great deal of community consultation.

Waste management
Waste management officers organise and manage waste disposal, collection and recycling facilities. They may also be responsible for waste treatment and street cleaning operations. Some posts combine waste management and recycling functions, whilst others split them into separate jobs. Health-related functions include:monitoring and reporting pollution levels from council waste disposal operations and ensuring the transportation of waste to ensure that it takes place efficiently without contamination.

Fire and rescue
Fire and rescue services now do far more than put out fires in our communities. Their contribution can include going into homes, schools, youth clubs, churches, temples and mosques to discuss safety issues and risks. They also work with industry, particularly those that use chemicals or hazardous materials. Fire services also provide a valuable public health link to other services, for example, informing health and social services that an elderly couple are not coping on their own to so that they get the support they need.

Voluntary (third sector) organisations are often involved with groups in society who have the worst deprivation and health inequalities. They work with individuals, families, groups and communities.

Examples of preventative roles which could lead to health benefits include:

  • giving information
  • working with individuals, families and groups to help maintain independence in the community
  • facilitating networking within and across communities and helping them become self-sustaining
  • promoting peer support
  • lobbying/advocacy on behalf of key groups at strategic policy levels

Activities which could lead to a health benefit include:

  • developing skills
  • informing policy from casework
  • creating evidence from research

Examples of activities to support individuals and families in difficulties which could lead to a health benefit include:

  • recovery for those who have experienced abuse
  • residential support and supported housing
  • commissioning services from a range of providers
  • building self-esteem skills

Some examples of health and wellbeing roles within ‘third’ sector organisations

Unpaid volunteer – raising awareness in local communities, giving information, local media promotion, gathering intelligence, raising funds and championing advocates. Volunteers are often highly motivated, having a personal link affected with a particular disease or situation. Volunteers often bring other skills with them.

Paid advice worker – offering advice to vulnerable groups and helping navigate through services. May negotiate on behalf of clients.

Services manager – supporting volunteers, managing commissioning of services and contracts, working with public sector and other partners.

Trainers – training groups of volunteers and those in public sector around specialised knowledge and awareness for particular client groups.

Campaign manager – managing media relations and campaigns, setting themes, commissioning design work, getting publicity to stakeholders.

Senior advocate for work of ‘third’ sector - sharing good practice, feeding experiences into best practice

Director of charity - Working with groups of volunteers, coordinating and delivering services, training and developing, commissioning services, project planning and writing grant applications.


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