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Public Health Leaders

If you watch the listings for public health jobs, you’ll notice that certain topics appear more often than others. They tend to appear in clusters, too: all of a sudden everyone’s hiring for emergency preparedness or obesity prevention. What’s behind these trends? Sometimes it’s just a coincidence. But often, what you’re seeing reflects the work of one or more major influencers: the agencies and nonprofit organizations that lead the way in public health.

As you work on your job search, keep an eye on what the big nonprofits, professional organizations, and government agencies are supporting. It’ll help you get a sense of where the funding is and where it might be in the near future.

Here’s a short list to get you started. To expand your search, take at look at these organizations' partners and grant recipients, too.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The nonprofit RWJF is a major funder of public health efforts across the U.S. — and that means they have a significant influence on what happens in the public health world. For the most part, programs don’t happen unless someone is willing to fund them. So when RWJF chooses an issue, public health professionals all over the U.S. take notice.

RWJF also provides information that influences other funders and advocacy groups. Their County Health Rankings, for example, lay out percentages of people who have certain health challenges such as smoking, not getting enough exercise, or not having access to healthy foods. Local health officials use that data when they’re designing programs and policies and creating grant proposals addressing those issues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

The CDC, which is part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, is well known as a source of information, recommendations, and funding for public health. But not everyone realizes just how wide its reach is. When you bring your kids to the doctor for their immunizations, you’re probably following a schedule published by the CDC. If you know about getting screened for colon cancer, the CDC’s Screen for Life program may well be the reason why.

Huge surveys run by the CDC provide data about everything from how often we go to the doctor to how many servings of vegetables we eat, and that information drives local and national research and health improvement efforts. Public health programs all over the country have their origins in a CDC decision to fund a certain approach. The CDC also has a major role in the creation of the Guide to Community Preventive Services, which interprets the evidence about what programs and policies work, and in what settings.

The National Association of City and County Health Officials

NACCHO is well known in the public health world — but if you’re not already in that world, you’ve probably never heard of them. NACCHO is an association of local health departments from all around the country. NACCHO advises legislators on public health policy, supplies them with information about public health issues, and helps health departments advocate for local needs. They provide guidance to local health departments on issues ranging from chronic disease prevention to workforce development. They support demonstration sites that try out innovative practices in public health. If an issue has to do with local public health, you’re likely to find NACCHO involved.

The American Public Health Association

APHA has been around since 1872, and all this time it’s been driving improvements in public health policy and practice. Need to know what to do when there’s a case of meningitis at the local high school? You’ll find help in the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, which APHA has been updating every few years since it first came out in 1916. Want to make sure your state’s public health efforts are up to par? APHA has been setting professional standards for over 100 years. And when it comes to public health advocacy, APHA is one of most influential voices.

At the Annual Meeting of APHA, you can learn about the latest trends first-hand, from public health leaders from all across the U.S. Knowing what’s going on at APHA can be particularly useful if you want to have some influence, yourself. There are 27 sections and 6 special interest groups covering a wide range of professions and interests, and they’re all run by volunteers. Together their members write policy papers, work on scientific programs, and mentor younger colleagues. Active members of APHA have the opportunity to step up and become leaders, themselves.


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