Succeeding as a Public Health Professional in the Private Sector

Gauri Joshi from EduMed shared insights into how to succeed as a public health professional in the private sector and this is what she had to say.

When we think of public health professionals, we often think of job opportunities in places like government agencies, public hospitals, and schools. However, public health professionals are needed in a variety of places, including the private sector. Now, more than ever, public health initiates are becoming increasingly relevant in all types of industries and if you’re thinking of pursing a public health career, it’s smart to know of all your options. Here are 4 ways you can find success in the private sector as a public health professional.

Familiarize yourself with Healthcare in the Digital Age

As the use of technology in essential health services continues to rise, it’s fair to say that the future of healthcare and public health is digital. The tech world, including major corporations and tech start-ups, are no longer just for software developers and engineers. There is a growing need for tech companies to align themselves with a public health agenda. According to Purdue University, “the field of health care IT is growing and changing rapidly…entirely new technology-driven specialties have emerged…” Thanks to this growth, you can certainly pursue public health jobs at companies such as Google (e.g. clinical research for Google Health), as well as government agencies that may be working with private entities. For example, the FDA has programs in place with private companies to expand on the use of medical devices and digital health.

Take advantage of the increase in employee wellness programs

Looking into the private sector, you will likely notice many companies have some sort of Employee wellness program in place. There is still more research to be done on whether employee wellness programs are guaranteed to work for everyone, however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity to succeed in this field. The need for employee wellness programs in the private sector actually stems from the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines to “reduce the burden of chronic illness, improve health, and slow the growth of health care costs,” by encouraging workplace wellness. As a public health professional, this is a great example of how you can bridge the gap between the health guidelines the government wants to put in place and how the private sector can best implement them. Employee wellness programs usually cover topics such as nutrition, exercise, and reducing stress in the workplace. Some examples include implementing incentive-based exercises (e.g. the department that logs in the most steps will receive a bonus), resources for healthy cooking, and encouraging the use of standing desks.

Network and continue to form professional relationships

If you are interested in going into the private sector, see if you have any mutual connections with people in these sectors, even if those connections are not in public health. There may be an opportunity to market yourself and there may be a possibility those connections will have their own network of references they can link you with. Networking is beneficial for most professions and it doesn’t always have to involve attending numerous events or cold calling. For example, some universities will have an alumni or post-graduate Listserv to connect with former classmates. Additionally, if you have held jobs in the past, you can also reach out to a former reference or employer for leads in the private sector. Even if your reference is not from the private sector, there is still a good chance they can refer you to other people through their own means of networking. If forming strong professional bonds and being comfortable communicating with people in all sectors is not something you want to pursue, you may have a difficult time finding success in public health, as so much of what is involved in being a public health professional is embedded in effective communication, whether it be in the public or private sector.

Connect the dots between public health positions in the private sector and your public sector experience

Similarly, while finding connections you may share with previous employers and professional references, it’s important you also try to connect the dots between previous experience in the public sector and how that can translate to the private sector. A public health role in the private sector can be found in several different areas, including work involving “big data” and health-related research. According to public health research, “big data shows utility across the entire spectrum of public health disciplines….[big data] can play a key role in both research and intervention activities and accelerate progress in disease prevention and population health”. If you have had experience working on big data for public health interventions through a government health agency, you can look for data analytics job roles in the private sector. For example, Facebook Preventive Health is a newly developed tool that uses data to send Facebook users health-related reminders.

Overall, both the private and public sectors overlap in customer relations. So much of the private sector focuses on customer and client relations, as often financial risk is much more profound in the private sector. As a public health professional, you are considered an expert in relaying pertinent health information to the general public, so your customer relation skills are sharp. Use this to your advantage when seeking out roles in the private sector and be confident in knowing you have the skills and tools to succeed in whichever sector you may choose.

By Maeghan Myers
Maeghan Myers Graduate Student Assistant