Public Health Fields and Specialties

Public health is defined as the practice of demonstration and research that prevents disease, prolongs life and promotes health by public and private organizations, communities, individuals and society at large.Public health endeavors generally consist of multidisciplinary teams of public health professionals who intervene in order to improve health and quality of life through the prevention of disease and promotion of healthy behaviors. There are many different specialties in public health and career choices for public health graduates.The main sub-fields of public health include environmental health, community health, epidemiology, global health and health policy and management.

Environmental Health

Environmental health refers to the specialty of public health that focuses on the natural and man-made environments that affect human health. This can include the natural environment, like soil, air and water, as well as the physical, chemical, social and biological aspects of the environment. Environmental health specialists investigate and analyze environmental qualities that may influence human health. They develop, promote and enforce environmentally related guidelines, policies, laws and regulations in order to create and sustain healthy living environments for people. Environmental health specialists can focus on one aspect of environmental health like air pollution, sustainable development, social determinants, chemical safety and effects, climate change and more.

Community Health

Community health workers assist the communities they serve by providing education and facilitating services for better health and improved quality of life. They conduct outreach programs that engage the community concerning health access and education. Community health workers collect data and advocate for community needs from an expert public health point of view. Community health workers may work for nonprofits, public health departments, healthcare facilities, schools or private organizations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for community health workers will grow 15 percent by 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations.


Epidemiologists investigate the patterns and causes of diseases and injuries in a community or demographic of people. They do this in order to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes via research, community education and health policy advocacy. Epidemiologists may collect and analyze data and results through the use of observations, interviews and surveys. They may collect blood or other fluid samples in order to find causes of health problems. Like other public health professionals, epidemiologists report their findings to other policymakers, the public and health professionals in order to manage public health initiatives.

Global Health

Global health is defined by the National Institutes of Health as study, research and practice that widens the scope of public health into a global perspective for people worldwide. Organizations like the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, World Bank and UNICEF all do the work of global health. Most global health workers are employed by nonprofit organizations or governmental agencies.

Health Policy

The specialty of health policy includes careers like public health researcher, healthcare policy analyst and health services manager. Health policy professionals play roles as researchers and advocates in the world of health. They may act as liaisons between public health professionals or organizations and government agencies.


Rivier University’s B.S. Public Health and Master of Public Health provide students with the knowledge and skills to address public health issues and promote healthy choices. These degree programs take place in a convenient, flexible online format to accommodate students’ work and personal schedules.