In Nigeria, public health officers focus on the overall health of communities instead of treating individual patients. They educate the public on specific health risks and basic healthy living strategies, and also create programs to encourage healthier lifestyles and minimize the risk of illness, disease and infection. They need a medical/ health care degree or a degree in public health including a compulsory registration with EHORECON in order to obtain license to practice.
NGO’s and Nonprofit Organizations
NGOS’s are the largest employers of public health professionals in Nigeria. Many nonprofit organizations hire public health officers to serve as advocates for the causes they specialize in. These public health officers promote general healthy living as well as strategies for fighting specific diseases. At a cancer research foundation, the public health officer might analyze statistics regarding nationwide cancer deaths and issue warnings or advice for reducing the risk of developing the disease. Public health officers also draw attention to health concerns affecting specific populations such as the elderly or the poor. In addition, they might lobby the government for health care reform or changes in health-related laws. They need at least a master’s degree in public health.
Nigerian Military and Armed Forces
The Nigerian Armed Forces regularly hires public health officers to oversee military bases for safety and hazardous materials management. These officers evaluate potential threats such as food services and sanitation to ensure that safety and hygiene practices are followed. They also monitor patterns in illness and disease to identify potential outbreaks or epidemics and address them before they have a significant impact on residents of the base. In addition, they make recommendations to base leaders regarding preventive health and other public health issues. They must have a doctor of veterinary medicine, master of science in epidemiology or master of public health degree, in addition to completing a mandatory short course to become a commissioned officer.
Local and State Government
Many local and state governments in Nigeria employ public health officers to monitor community health and create public health initiatives such as Immunization programs. These medical professionals often work closely with local health care providers and community health care and social services agencies. At the state level, they also coordinate with municipal governments. In addition, they oversee public health nurses, health inspectors and field epidemiologists. Many start out as practicing physicians, later earning graduate degrees in public health. Some nurses also advance to the role after additional education and experience in public health services.
Many ministries and agencies in Nigeria hire public health officers from several medical professions, including physicians, nurses, veterinarians, dentists and behavioral health specialists. They work in federal health agencies such as the Nigerian Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), National agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC), The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency (NOSDRA), National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), The Federal Ministry of health and Environment employs the highest number of public health officers.
They educate the public about basic health issues such as the dangers of smoking or the benefits of losing weight. They also monitor potential disease outbreaks and recommend steps to minimize the spread of infection. Most have degrees in medicine, nursing or veterinary medicine and previous experience in the field.
What Is a Public Health Information Officer?
A public health information officer is the public face of a government agency, large public institution, hospital, university, or municipal department. They’re generally the person who is seen delivering information to the media or the public during times of health crisis, but will often work on various issues throughout the year.
Specific job duties related to the daily routine of a public health information officer include:
- Examining any public health situation and determining the amount of information to release and what information should be shared with the public.
- Planning and holding a press conference to provide essential information to the public during a crisis or health related discovery.
- Coordination with staff, superiors, and other agencies related to the information and its impact on the public in general.
- Preparation of materials such as brochures, fact sheets, and press releases that are used to spread information related to a specific health issue.
- Development of different guidelines that are used during the sharing of information to the public or the media.
- Utilization of social media to spread information as needed.
- Maintain strong relationships with the public, the media, and others who have a direct relationship to any situation.
There are several different personal characteristics that will translate into strong performance in the field of public information. Strong education and proper training will have a tremendous impact on the success one has in the field, but the following strengths will help as well.
Strong Communication Skills – This is the single most important characteristic of a public health information officer. Conducting press conferences and interviews is a key part of the job, as is disseminating information to colleagues. It’s a must to have a good communication skill.
Good Organizational Skills – Those in this position will end up spending time planning and implementing health related campaigns, initiatives, and programs. As such, they’ll need good organizational skills.
Ability to Work Well Under Stress – The fact is that many of the biggest responsibilities of a public health information officer come into the light during times of crisis. They should be able to work under stress.
Nature of the Work
During any given day, the tasks a public health information officer will be in charge of will vary greatly. They will spend a considerable amount of time developing and implementing programs and educational campaigns ranging from special events to informative brochure distribution. They also handle relationships between media and health departments or health institutions, promoting services and delivering data to the various news outlets. During times of crisis they will often be in charge of handling press releases and press conferences, explaining current situations to the public at large.
Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree is required for entry into the field, and at least four years of experience in the field of public information will likely be required as well. Those in the field will focus their studies on a combination of health care and public relations, so the process of entering the field can involve very broad, diverse education.
Average salaries in this field are much harder to pin down than in other fields due to the varying nature of the job. Those who enter the field will find their salaries impacted by where they work, their training and experience levels, and much more.