Rachel Fardon and Katie Bretherton
What is Public Health?
“The science and art of promoting and protecting health and well-being, preventing ill-health and prolonging life through the organised efforts of society”
Note: this post is a continuation of the previous posts: "So, you want to be a Public Health Consultant? Part 1/3 and Part 2/3" - Go check them out before you continue!
Preparing in advance for Public Health Applications
So it’s worth pointing out that you don’t need to be building a portfolio of evidence years in advance to be successful in the application process for Public Health training! Below are some suggestions for activities which may help you to better understand what Public Health involves day-to-day and to feel well-prepared for the interview, but please be aware that none of these are essential. There are no points available for related degrees, academic publications, attending conferences, events or courses. These experiences may help you to be sure that you want a career in Public Health, and may or may not provide experiences or knowledge that is useful (but not essential) to have at an interview.
Work Experience, Shadowing, Taster Weeks, Electives
People from a medical background may be particularly interested in getting some experience of working in a Public Health setting, as there tends to be little exposure during medical school. You will need to organise this yourself, but you could try:
Reaching out to Public Health teams in Local Authorities (councils) close to you. You should be able to find this information online.
Reaching out to Public Health academics in university settings.
Looking for contact details on the Public Health page for the deanery you plan to apply to, and seeing if they have any local work experience/shadowing opportunities or the contact details for a Registrar you could speak to about their experience.
Keeping up-to-date with Public Health
There are lots of ways to keep an eye on new developments and hot topics in the world of Public Health, here are a few suggestions:
Look out for Public Health stories in newspapers and on the news. For example, at the time of writing the government has recently announced it will not be publishing the White Paper on Health inequalities, and there are suggestions that an Action Plan on Smoking Cessation will also be scrapped.
The Kings Fund has excellent articles providing insight into health and social care policy
The Michael Marmot Reports are core reports on the topic of health inequalities in the UK
You can also absorb lots of information by osmosis or find links to interesting articles by following Public Health professionals on Twitter. A few examples to get you started are included below:
Greg Fell @felly500
Steve Senior @stevensenior
Kevin Fenton @ProfKevinFenton
Maggie Rae @MaggieRae20
Devi Sridhar @devisridhar
Bonus tip - look at who they are following if you want to follow even more interesting public health accounts
Exploring Relevant Skills
There are articles and online courses which can help you to develop skills relevant to practising Public Health:
Critical appraisal of journal articles:
Read this BMJ article on “How to read a paper”
Look for opportunities to join or start journal clubs at your medical school or workplace
Read this BMJ article on “Epidemiology for the uninitiated”
Take a look on FingerTips, a data source used commonly by Public Health professionals. You could spend some time looking at the prevalence and trends for public health issues in the local authority you live or work in. How does the obesity prevalence in your local authority compare to regional or national averages? How has it changed over time?
Foundation of Public Health Practice
Take a look at this free online course covering many core principles for Public Health Practice - Foundations of Public Health Practice Specialisation
The ‘A very short introduction to…’ series has a number of books that are Public Health related and can be read in one sitting. Pick a couple you are interested in and give them a read
Finding out more about Public Health Specialty Training
If you are looking for more information about life as a Public Health Registrar you may like to take a look at:
Choosing to train in public health by R Maini, S Rana and C Tomes - can be found on Amazon for £3
Training in Public Health Podcast - can be found on Spotify
Applying to PH Specialty Training Webinar - recording of a webinar from West Midlands Registrars
PH Specialty Training Curriculum - if you are interested in more information on what the curriculum for Public Health Registrars includes
Thinking ahead to finishing training and becoming a Public Health Consultant, there is an interesting blog on the experiences of two Consultants in their first year.