These days talk of Public Health may send a shiver down one’s spine. After over a year of the Coronavirus pandemic, the term almost feels like a buzzword, having overwhelmed, and oversaturated the media for months with no end in sight. Plus, public health is heavily discussed and debated amongst politicians and government officials on any given day, let alone during an election year amidst a global pandemic. All of this results in much of the population believing that public health refers strictly to government health programs. However, public health actually refers to everything in the environment, communities, and population that poses a threat to the health of the population.
With climate change on the rise and the wellness of our planet on the top of many people’s minds, careers in environmental public health are more important than ever. From handling long-term challenges, like protecting natural resources, to more immediate problems, such as disaster management, environmental public health “focuses on protecting groups of people from threats to their health and safety posed by their environments,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Data science skills are playing a crucial role in helping environmentalists model different stats and data together to forecast future environmental challenges.
Let’s take a look at the top five environment public health jobs where having data science skills are useful:
A very timely occupation, epidemiologists focus on investigating the origin and spread of disease in humans. They identify people and communities who are notably at risk and work to control or completely stop the spread. Furthermore, they develop ways to prevent these diseases from happening in the first place by working in labs and hospitals and educating the community at large as well as policymakers. Data management is essential for the epidemiologist especially experiences in R-software and other data visualization techniques.
These specialists regulate the containment and disposal of hazardous materials. They help to develop regulations at the federal, state and local levels and ensure that all waste streams are managed according to those regulations. These are the folks who inspect and interview any violators of the waste management system.
Regular data analysis is an integral part of the environment specialist job. Some of the critical data pieces that require further analysis are air and water pollution data, tree ring data, temperature records, etc.
Toxicologists study the effects of toxic chemicals. This includes how toxic chemicals are metabolized by an organism, how they impact the ecosystem as they cycle through, and all lethal and non-lethal effects the chemicals have on an entire species. Some environmental toxicologists may also conduct testing on new chemicals before they're released to the market, in order to ensure they won't cause adverse effects in humans such as cancer or birth defects.
Looking at the past data is significant to track the effects of toxic chemicals. Hence, knowledge of data science is useful for this job.
Another timely speciality, Bioengineers can follow a number of different, yet extremely valuable, career paths.
Those with a degree in bioengineering can go on to become Pharmaceutical Engineers. Pharmaceutical Engineers create effective (and safe) pharmaceuticals that can impact lives for the better, and in the case of Covid-19, save hundreds of thousands of lives. These specialized engineers develop, create, and test medications for the treatment of a wide variety of viruses, diseases, and injuries.
Bioengineers can also go on to study medical device engineering, which is the development of new medical devices like prosthetics, artificial organs, and other breakthrough technology. Yet another popular career choice for bioengineering grads is a Medical Scientist. Medical Scientists promote population health through a combination of bioengineering and medical science and can carry out important duties including conducting research, clinical trials, and more.
Every bioengineering career option requires knowledge of data science. Big data is crucial to decode the human brain to promote a better healthcare system.
Air Pollution Analyst
These vital analysts collect and analyze data from polluted air. They trace their data to the source of the pollutants and work to develop future techniques for reducing or altogether eliminating air pollution. Air Pollution Analysts hold humans accountable and control pollution outputs in order to preserve our atmosphere and maintain the quality of the air we breathe.
It is the responsibility of the air pollution scientist to examine data from polluted air. Besides, they compile different stats to create a detailed analysis.
Environmental / Health Inspector
The health inspectors that most people are familiar with scope out your favourite local restaurant for any health violations to keep you safe. Environmental health inspectors scope out all businesses, buildings, parks, waterways and other settings to ensure they meet health and sanitation standards. They search for any potential health threats and produce ways to correct and prevent problems. Some may be responsible for inspecting food manufacturing plants, landfills, or underground storage. These inspectors also make sure any mass-produced food supply is as safe as possible.
In order to pursue any of the above Environmental Public Health jobs as a career, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required with knowledge of data science. This degree does not necessarily have to be in environmental public health specifically but could center on occupational health and safety, or a related scientific field like biology, chemistry, or even engineering. Depending on the position, some career options may require a graduate degree such as a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.), or perhaps even a doctorate. This field has a considerable technical and scientific nature, so for most, getting a master’s degree in environmental public health is a good idea in order to advance in the field.
No matter whichever public health career you choose, data science is an integral part of every environmental job. Career opportunities in the environmental public health sector are predicted to grow due to the continuously rising challenges presented by climate change and other factors. Maintaining a healthy environment is integral to increasing general longevity and quality of life and the knowledge of data science is helping to study the past data to improve the future.