Social workers who have earned a dual specialization in social work and public health for their master’s have a solid foundation in community outreach and helping individuals and families cope with the social, financial and health challenges of modern living. As dual professionals, public health social workers are in a position to address issues such as health disparities among communities, inadequate infrastructures to cope with the effects of disasters and epidemics and rapid-reaction prevention programs.
Public health social work is a transdisciplinary practice that applies an epidemiologic approach to prevention practices, addressing and managing social health issues. These issues are complex, diverse and non-static due to greater mobility and the effects of globalization on health and social factors. As a transdisciplinary professional, the public health social worker becomes a valuable asset for organizations involved in social, health and academic issues.
A public and social health researcher gathers information to define the scope and depth of community health problems and social ills. This job requires the ability to design a comprehensive yet actionable research program that can be conducted with diverse populations as respondents. Some tasks may not involve field studies, focusing instead on reviews of literature pertaining to a specific topic. Research functions extend to data analysis, jobs best suited to dual-focus public health social workers with a clear understanding of the intersection between health and social issues.
2. Program Planner
Regardless of specialization, social workers are considered boots-on-the-ground resources. Front line interaction with the public is typically assigned to social workers who have some training in clinical and behavioral psychology. With a transdisciplinary background in both social work and public health, you will be called upon to design prevention, intervention and management programs that will explore one or several health and social issues. As program planner, you will develop the program, test its functionality, supervise the implementation then organize and analyze the data to present it in a readable format for policy makers.
3. Program Director
Community-based initiatives are usually managed as long-term or short-term programs, depending on the type of need being addressed. These programs require a skilled professional to oversee the implementation and adjust program direction as needed. As program director, you may or may not have a hand in program development, but you will certainly have full control of how project goals are met. This management position will require interaction with the public as well as staff management skills because you will be directing and coordinating the activities of staff with diverse backgrounds.
4. Policy Analyst
For health and social programs to take off and succeed, top-level support must be curried by local governments and other advocates. The policy analyst is a high-level researcher and data analyst whose output becomes the basis for legislative efforts to change existing programs or implement new ones. Public health social workers have comprehensive training on understanding and addressing social issues especially those that are concerned with public health. As a policy analyst, you will play an important role in creating and changing public policies that affect the public. Your job may focus on identifying and assisting special communities such as minorities, refugees and age-based groupings.
5. Disaster Response Leaders
The world faces one crisis after another. Policies and programs are already in place to react to the effects of anticipated issues such as natural disasters. However, the health and social problems of communities today are different because of population shifts due to wars and economic issues. Disaster response teams are prepared with quick-action recovery responses, which are short-term by nature. Managing the long-term impact of issues such as AIDS/HIV, Ebola, Zika and other problems will need a long-term strategy, something that a dual-focus social work and public health professional has been trained to do.
You expand your career opportunities when you earn a master’s degree in social work and public health. More importantly, you create different pathways through which you can serve the public and ensure meaningful and productive interaction with those in need of social and health services.