In recent times, public health is a very familiar subject that has achieved a good reputation globally. However, this discipline has not received much attention in academia in our country, in spite of its importance here as an over-populated, third world country.
As the first of its kind in Bangladesh, the department of public health & informatics started its journey at the undergraduate level in Jahangirnagar University on 21 December 2011. Besides, there are several private universities in the country that provide Master’s degree on public health affairs.
Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and communities. This work is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury preventions, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases. In a nutshell, public health is concerned with protecting the health of the entire population. The population can be as small as a local neighbourhood, or as big as the entire country or an entire region of the world. Public health professionals try to prevent problems from happening or repeating through implementing educational programs, recommending policies, administering services and conducting research, in contrast to clinical professionals like doctors and nurses, who focus primarily on treating individuals after they become sick or injured.
In addition to the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNFPA, UNDP and UN agencies are focusing on research in public health. World Health Organisation (WHO) is the world’s largest public health institute. It is mainly managed by public health experts. Besides, there is a demand for public health graduates in various international organisations including UNDP, UNFPA and ICDDR. There is a great demand for public health experts in international NGOs.
There are many graduates working at international voluntary organisations and UN agencies both home and abroad. The public health students are representing the top-level of various non-government organisations in the country. Public health degrees are currently being preferred in various projects of WHO, UNAIDS, UNFPA, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, USAID, etc. International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) such as ICDDR, Save the Children, FHI-360, IDRC have been employed in this subject. Bangladeshi degree holders have the opportunity to work on various projects under John Hopkins University and WaterAid. Students of public health management are getting fellowships from various organisations including the United Nations. Overall, there is now a widespread demand for public health experts.
In the department of health and family planning, public health graduates have to meet the demands of doctors. But if the number of public health graduates increases, they will be able to perform this responsibility better. Besides, there is a public employment opportunity for public health graduates under the public health engineering department, environment, nutrition planning and other ministries. Lastly, if you want to present your country to the world court, you can definitely do that through a public health education and research on your country.
If you really want to read public health in the future, best time to start is from the undergrad level. Since undergrad programs for public health have been introduced in Jahangirnagar University for the first time in Bangladesh, your first target may be the department of public health and informatics in this university. It can be a good option if you want to study public health at an affordable cost in a public university.
The writer is a student of the department of public health and informatics in Jahangirnagar University.