Health protection is a broad and versatile field requiring specialist knowledge and skills provided by a multidisciplinary team. It has been given an increasing profile in recent years following the polonium 210 incident, pandemic flu and more recently SARS-CoV2 and COVID-19 .
Health protection services are on hand to deal with outbreak situations and monitor the emergence of diseases not previously seen in the UK, such as COVID-19. Teams continue to manage ongoing infections with historically well-known conditions such as measles and tuberculosis, and observing the effect that immunisations have on diseases such as meningitis.
Job titles may vary across organisations as well as the pay and conditions. However a common job title would be 'Health Protection Specialist'.
This job role involves creating effective strategies for safeguarding the health of the local population. Typical examples of this type of work could be contact tracing, protecting health from the weather, floods, or even a pandemic.
As a health protection specialist, you will work alongside other organisations bridging your support. You will demonstrate the most effective response based on life-threatening emergencies. This is known as an emergency planning exercise.
Moreover, you will share specialist advice on infection prevention and control, as well as showing support on how to implement this. Most likely, you will be showing colleagues, patients, members of the public, and organisations.
Examples of advice you could be giving could be: wearing personal protective equipment, dealing with chemical spills and spills of bodily fluids, good hygiene practice, cleanliness within the healthcare or work environment and safe disposal of waste such as needles and sharps.
This role involves assisting the development of evidence-based quality standards for infection prevention and control. This is vital to limit the risk of an outbreak, especially for infections such as MRSA, Norovirus, and Salmonella.
Also, you will help prepare reports about the quality and performance of local systems for protecting health. This could be the numbers and types of people who have taken up immunisation and screening programmes in a given area.
To become a health protection specialist, you’ll need to gain the following:
- Master’s degree in public health or equivalent
- Significant public health experience
- If you’re a registered nurse, you’ll need to have relevant qualifications in infection, infectious disease control, emergency planning, teaching and assessing.