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Public Health

The public health sector primarily focuses on helping people to stay healthy, protecting their wellbeing, preventing threats to their health and ultimately aiming to prolong life.

Those that work in public health roles have a varied job, but all aim to promote a healthy lifestyle to patients, tackling challenges such as mental health, dementia, health inequality, obesity and even health effects of climate change – all with the intention of making a positive difference in people’s lives.

Some of these positive outcomes achieved by public health interventions over time include:

  • Increased life expectancy
  • Increased uptake of key health services
  • Better prevention of infectious diseases and vaccination levels
  • More smoke-free spaces in public areas
  • Fewer people smking (and therefore, higher numbers of people quitting)
  • Reduced salt levels in food
  • Fewer teenage pregnancies

Find out more about some of the roles within public health (plus entry requirements) and the difference they make to society, below…

Health Visitor

A Health Visitor is usually a qualified, registered Nurse or Midwife who has completed additional training and qualifications, enabling them to work with both individuals and families within the community, assessing health needs and promoting a healthy lifestyle to give young children the best possible start in life.

This role varies depending on your location and specialism but in any case, you will usually work with other healthcare professionals (GPs, AHPs, Social Workers and Nurses), supporting parents and families to:

  • Give antenatal and postnatal advice and support
  • Help new parents to feed their new baby
  • Provide support for looking after young children – how keep them safe (including how to prevent accidents and injuries)
  • Advise families with children with special needs or behavioural issues
  • Signpost to resources and information

Health Visitors may also work with deprived or at-risk groups such as addicts or the homeless – and collaborate with other organisations to ensure additional safeguarding is in place as necessary. People in this role are trained to recognise signs of abuse or neglect and can quickly assess what action should be taken to protect the child.

Typical entry requirements:

  • Completion of health visitor training – this is at degree level and typically lasts at least one academic year
    • The programme may also be known as Specialist Community Public Health Nursing – Health Visiting (SCPHN – HV)
  • To apply for a health visitor training programme, you’ll need to already be a registered nurse (adult / child / mental health / learning disability) or midwife

Occupational Health Nurse

Occupational Health Nurses are concerned with people’s wellbeing within the workplace and are in direct contact with employees to provide advice on a range of matters. People in this role are usually qualified, registered nurses, employed as part of an occupational health service team (perhaps in an HR department, or part of a health trust). Many of them will have completed additional, specialist training, enabling them to assess health needs of individuals, families and the community.  

Within this role, you may complete some clinical tasks such as giving vaccinations, taking blood samples and monitoring ongoing health – but this could also include risk assessment, counselling, advising on travel, promoting healthy living and working conditions, health screening and providing training (e.g. on first aid management).

Typical entry requirements:

  • To apply for an occupational health nurse role, you’ll need to already be a registered nurse (adult / child / mental health / learning disability) or midwife
  • You may wish to complete additional, approved training to qualify as a specialist community public health nurse (SCPHN – OHN); entry requirements for this course are flexible and does not require a minimum amount of work experience post-registration
  • Experience of working within a relevant field would be advantageous, such as A&E/practice nursing, counselling, psychological health, or management of legislation (sickness leave, rehabilitation etc)

Public Health Manager

Staff in this kind of role work across the full range of public health services to spearhead and implement campaigns and plans to improve or protect the health of the community. This could be anything from providing advice and expertise to businesses, to managing public health budgets, to commissioning services and more.

Work duties will vary from specific role to specific role within this area – but could include working with organisations to implement plans for protecting people in the event of an emergency or wide-spread health problems (including infection prevention plans)… long-term public health goals such as reducing obesity, promoting healthy living, reducing stigma related to mental health issues or reducing alcohol intake… managing budgets to allocate resource effectively… or working on plans to reduce health inequalities (e.g. caused by differences in social-economic backgrounds).

Typical entry requirements:

  • Prerequisites for roles within this area depends on employer, location and specific appointment but may range from:
    • A Master’s degree in public health (or equivalent)
    • Prior experience of working within public health
    • Experience as a qualified, registered nurse
    • A qualification in management, social work, or another area
    • Registration with, e.g. the UK Public Health Register (UKPHR) – or be working towards attaining this

Public Health Nurse

Usually qualified, registered Nurses or Midwives who have undertaken more training and/or specialism, Public Health Nurses play a vital part of promoting a healthy lifestyle to the public and protecting the health of the community – perhaps working for the NHS, local authorities, Public Health England or other organisations.

Public Health Nurses may be involved with assessing the specific health needs of their community and might support people with long-term health issues, help to prevent illnesses through screening activities, roll out immunisation programmes, promote self-care, raising awareness to tackle conditions like obesity or cardiovascular disease, work on emergency planning and risk assessments, training, mentoring and much more!

Typical entry requirements:

  • To apply for additional training for public health nursing roles, you’ll need to already be a registered nurse (adult / child / mental health / learning disability) or midwife
  • You may wish to complete additional, approved training to qualify as a specialist community public health nurse (SCPHN); entry requirements for this course are flexible and does not require a minimum amount of work experience post-registration
  • Prior experience of working within public health – or additional qualifications (e.g. in management or social work) may be advantageous