Public health job: health protection officer 

Looking for a career in public health?  Becoming a health protection officer could be just the career for you!

Health protection officers identify and manage potential health risks to the public.

VIDEO - Roimata Moore and Cameron Ormsby

Like Roimata Moore and Cameron Ormsby (health protection officers for the Auckland Regional Public Health Service), Health protection officers investigate and take action on public health concerns, provide advice and information, and contribute to the management of sustainable environments.  See Roimata and Cameron in the video to your right.
They enjoy a mixture of fieldwork, scientific report writing and being involved with the public.  Health protection officers carry out a regulatory role on behalf of the Director-General of Health and have the power to perform investigations sometimes leading to legal action.
The three main areas health protection officers are involved in are:

  • environmental health
  • communicable diseases
  • food safety.

Health protection officers: what they might do:

  • monitor and remove exotic mosquitoes around seaports and airports
  • check homes and advise families on taking action for lead poisoning
  • follow up a case of infectious disease to prevent it from spreading 
  • investigate a chemical spill and provide advice to protect the public develop a food  safety programme.

What school subjects do you need to be a health protection officer?
Chemistry and biology lay a sound foundation for health protection work.
What qualifications will you need to be a health protection officer?
To be a designated HPO in a public health unit, you need academic, practical and personal competencies that have been identified by the Director-General of Health.
Academic competencies (skills and knowledge) will be achieved by anyone completing a Bachelor of Applied Science (health protection major) from Auckland University of Technology, or a Bachelor of Applied Science (environmental health major) from Massey University.
However if you already have a Bachelor of Science you could complete the Graduate Diploma in Environmental Health (Massey University) or other public health qualifications.
Contact your local public health unit for advice about your particular requirements.
Health protection officers: who employs them? 
Health protection officers are part of public health teams in the District Health Board. Many take on a specialist role such as biosecurity, drinking water, or smokefree environments, while retaining some general tasks.
Other roles, related to HPOs, include technical officers in public health units and environmental health officers in territorial local authorities.
In the future, a wider range of organisations may seek the sort of skills which health protection officers bring to public health and the professional scope of this work may grow.

Further information:

Other health careers


Profile of a health protection officer: Kirsten Todd

Kirsten is a trainee heatlh protection officer based in Blenheim where she works and trains with two experienced health protection officers. She is working mainly in a regional commercial shellfish programme, ensuring that water quality and hygiene conditions are good enough to ensure the shellfish is safe to eat.
Kirsten also investigates the occurrence of notifiable diseases such as campylobacter and salmonella. She is part of a project to eliminate the saltmarsh mosquito and a programme to prevent the accidental importation of exotic mosquitoes at the port.
As a lab technician testing marine phytoplankton samples in Nelson, Kirsten was attracted to the varied and interesting responsibilities of the health protection officers she was working with and took the opportunity to become a trainee health protection officer when it became available.
Kirsten has a Bachelor of Science and with the support of her employer, is studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Health. Training on the job has really helped her in her study as it has given her practical experience to draw on. Kirsten’s training will enable her to become designated as a health protection officer by the Director-General of Health.
Kirsten says a big part of her job is educating and informing people about food
preparation and hygiene and says it’s really empowering to positively influence
change in the community.
“Every time the phone rings I can never be quite sure what I’ll be
required to deal with and this means I am constantly learning. I thrive
on the variety and challenge of not being in a routine role”



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