Public health job: public health doctor

Public health doctors are qualified medical doctors who choose to specialise in the health of groups or whole communities rather than working in individual healthcare.

What are public health doctors involved in?

Public health doctors are involved in promoting health and preventing disease by assessing a community’s health needs and providing services to these communities. Partnerships with the communities they serve are key to successful outcomes.
Most public health doctors are involved in planning, funding and managing health services, the delivery of public health projects, communicable disease control as well as in academic areas such as research and teaching.
Like other public health roles the focus is on population health and prevention and on the underlying social factors that affect peoples health and wellbeing.

Health care job as a public health doctorPublic health doctor, health jobs, health vacancies

Public health doctors might:

  • research the health of a particular population or health issue
  • plan, deliver and monitor for the health needs identified in that research
  • set up key public health projects and programmes, for example in cardiovascular (heart) health or immunisation
  • provide advice to senior managers and politicians on major health issues and initiatives
  • lecture on public health at tertiary institutions.

What school subjects do you need to be a public health doctor?
You should aim for high marks in all NCEA subjects, particularly in mathematics, chemistry, physics biology and English.  
What qualifications will you need to be a public health doctor?
First you will need to become a qualified doctor. This requires a Bachelors Degree in Science and then a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. After this you will need to complete a year as a hospital intern and a minimum of a further two years clinical experience.
After this medical training, to become a public health doctors (a public health physician) you will need to do specialist training for four years in the public health medicine training programme, which includes work experience and completing a Masters in Public Health.
Public health doctors: who employs them?
Many public health doctors are employed by the Ministry of Health or District Health Boards. Others are employed with Universities as researchers or teachers. public health doctors also provide services under contract as independent consultants. 

Further information:


Other health careers


Profile of a public health doctor: Dale Bramley

As manager of the health gain team at Waitemata District Health Board, Dale (Ngapuhi, Ngati Hine) provides clinical leadership and strategic direction
for population health programmes to address diabetes and cardiovascular (heart) disease.
Other programmes within his broad work area include cancer control, healthy lifestyles, child health and the quality use of medicines.
An important focus of his work is to reduce the inequalities that exist between the health of Maori and other New Zealanders. His passion for Maori health has taken him to international forums for indigenous health and to New York to pursue a Harkness fellowship.
Dale has qualified as a doctor, has a Masters of Public Health and is studying towards a Masters in Business Administration. He insists however that you don’t have to be brilliant to pursue a career like his. He believes passion and persistence are key attributes along with dedication and a commitment to lifelong learning.
Dale attributes the success of his programmes to working with a broad range of other public health professionals whose combined work is essential to improving community health. One such programme is the Wellbeing in Schools project in which schools participate in a range of initiatives to improve and maintain good health including better nutrition, and increased physical activity.
Dale says creating links with primary care is also an important aspect of his work. This means that while the focus of his work is in preventing disease and maintaining wellness there is a need to care for those individuals who have become unwell.
Dale is also involved in health research using it to inform his day-to-day work.
He says he is a great believer in the need for research, but he must be able
to apply it to his work.
“I am committed to working in public health because I think
there are greater gains to be made by working with communities for
better health”



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