In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!
Many state health agencies have offices dedicated to alleviating health disparities. The exact names vary, but “Office of Minority Health” is a common variation; other names include “Office of Health Disparities” and “Office of Health Equity.” An emerging trend is for city and county health departments to have their own such offices, focusing on local needs. These departments use a combination of activities to accomplish their goals, and they have directors who are closely involved in the day-to-day work. Typically, the work of a county Office of Minority Health will be based on information about the health of different population groups, things like premature births, vaccination coverage, and diabetes prevalence. The director, often working with a small staff, attempts to identify where the disparities are and to begin figuring out why they exist. Then, the office sponsors programs or works with community groups to address the problem. Some of the programs are traditional, but some can be quite creative—like training barbershop staff to talk to their clients about cancer screening or sponsoring health-related contests at high schools. The director oversees these efforts, helping to plan programs and events, drawing up and managing the department budget, applying for funding, making long-range plans, and collaborating with the leaders of other departments and outside organizations. Bringing community groups together, guiding and assisting with their efforts, and providing information and resources they need can be a significant part of this job. This is an office job, but one with a lot of interaction with community organizations and outside agencies. The director may be expected to represent the department at events that occur in the evenings and on weekends.
Education and Certification
At some local minority health offices, the director is a physician. At others, the director has an MPH, a master’s degree in another related field, or a bachelor’s degree with experience in local community health programs.
Core Competencies and Skills
- Ability to interact with and gain the trust of people from many different backgrounds
- Ability to handle multiple projects at once
- Understanding of epidemiologic principles
- Awareness of health equity issues and of existing programs to address health disparities
- Experience planning different types of outreach programs and knowledge of how to evaluate their success
- Experience with local minority groups and with the community organizations that are working to address their needs
Salaries for local minority health directors reflect their qualifications as well as local budgets. In one region, typical salaries are in the range of $40,000 to $50,000; in another, a county director earns about $65,000. In a county where the director is a physician, the salary is closer to $150,000.
Minority health offices are found in health departments at every level of government. There is even a national Office of Minority Health.
There are not a lot of local-level offices of minority health yet, but this is a growing field. Meanwhile, people interested in minority health can also find positions elsewhere in local health departments, at state offices of minority health, or with nonprofit organizations.
For Further Information
- Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OMH) http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/