Public Health Skills: Definition, Examples And Tips

Updated 16 February 2023

Public health professionals play a crucial role in ensuring a community's general health and well-being. They use a variety of skills to assess the needs of individuals and groups, teach them about health and lobby for public health reform. Learning about the necessary skills to work in public health can help you advance your career and become a more effective professional. In this article, we describe the meaning of public health skills, review some examples, provide you with a guide on how to improve them, explore them in the workplace and discover how to highlight them on your resume and cover letter and during interviews.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

What Are Public Health Skills?

Public health skills are the abilities that professionals in this field use to protect and enhance community and individual health. These skills include the promotion of healthy habits, scientific research on injury and disease prevention and the identification, control and treatment of infectious diseases. Carrying out these various nuanced tasks involves a set of basic hard and soft skills, and each broad skill category requires several individual skills.

Examples Of Public Health Skills

Here is a list of essential abilities that can help you become an effective public health professional:

Analytics and assessment

Analytical skills allow you to evaluate information, analyse problems and find solutions. These skills are essential in the public health field, which requires handling large amounts of data. Analytical thinking can help you understand data's larger context and divide big chunks of information to discover relevant details. Analytical and assessment abilities enable you to collect and interpret data and transform it into actionable steps. These are crucial to evaluating the resources and requirements to meet community health needs, creating community health assessments and using evidence for decision-making.

Related: How To Improve Analytical Skills (With Steps And Benefits)

Policy planning and development

Planning policies and developing programmes are core public health professional tasks that require several skills, including research, data analysis and critical thinking. These abilities can help you identify, promote, plan, implement and evaluate policies and programmes to address public health challenges. They also allow you to develop strategies for ongoing quality improvement initiatives and enhanced community health.

Related: 11 Programmes For MBA Health Care Management Aspirants


Communication involves the ability to listen to, understand and convey information clearly to others. Public health professionals share their expertise with people to improve the population's health and well-being. They may speak directly to the public, colleagues, boards, elected officials or other invested individuals. Effective communication skills are necessary for public health data and information advocacy, dissemination and assessment. They help professionals evaluate and address population literacy, request and use community feedback, communicate statistics and information and explain the government's role in the health care system.

Related: Communication Skills For Managers: Definition And Examples

Financial planning and management

Financial planning involves handling money, while management is about handling people. Both these skills are essential to public health care work, especially for more senior positions. Financial planning and management help professionals in the field run the country's public health programmes. They are vital to collaborating with other governmental organisations that can address the population's health care needs, using public health care funding systems effectively, creating and defending budget plans, inspiring staff and designing management systems to enhance organisational performance.

Related: A Guide On Financial Planning And Analysis (With Functions)


Leadership is about persuading others to pursue a particular course of action. In public health, its aim is to convince people to take actions that improve their health. Leadership abilities can help integrate ethical norms within an organisation and enhance collaboration between organisations, including public health and health care. It is effective in mentoring staff, adapting to changing demands and environments, ensuring continuous quality improvement, managing organisational change and promoting the government's role in public health.

Related: How To Demonstrate Leadership Skills At Work: A Guide

How To Improve Public Health Skills?

Here are some steps to help you improve your existing skills and become a more effective public health professional:

1. Complete the required education

Most crucial skills for public health are complex and require a combination of training and knowledge. Enrolling in a public health course or degree programme can help you better understand and acquire the essential skills to work in this field and develop soft skills, including critical thinking and reasoning. A formal degree, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH), is a great option.

2. Improve your knowledge of sociology

Sociology helps you understand how factors, such as class, wealth, skin colour, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability and religion affect people's lives. Sociology and public health are related fields because socioeconomic status has an impact on people's health. An in-depth knowledge of sociology can help a public health practitioner understand the prevalence, causes and treatment-related concerns of diseases and illnesses in various communities and also use their other skills more effectively.

3. Work in different settings

Practical experience in various industries and public health roles is the best way to hone your skills and understand the breadth and depth of this field's responsibilities. From developing policies and educating the public to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, each category of public health work requires a specific skill set. A public health professional can work for the government, in the business sector for health insurance or pharmaceutical corporations or for non-profit organisations.

Related: 15 Population Health Careers (With Duties And Salaries)

Public Health Skills In The Workplace

Here are some practical tips you can follow for a successful career in public health:

  • Value diversity by developing cultural competence. This involves understanding and addressing various cultural needs, evaluating the organisation's cultural diversity and competence, determining how policies and programmes affect different populations and actively supporting a diverse public health workforce.

  • Be creative and adaptable to foster community collaboration. Assess and forge connections within the community, enhance community involvement and engagement, negotiate for the use of community resources and defend public health policies and initiatives.

  • Improve your public health science skills through continuous research. Honing your skills requires a knowledge of the history and key moments in public health history, the practical application of public sciences, the use of data when formulating policies and programmes and the establishment of academic partnerships.

Related: What Is A Health Inspector? Skills And How To Become One

How To Highlight Public Health Skills?

Here are some ways you can highlight your public health professional skills to pass each stage of the application and selection process and improve your chances of getting a role in this profession:

For a resume

Mention your abilities in the experience section of your resume and highlight them separately in the skills section. This can help recruiters determine your suitability for the job's requirements. Here is an example of a skills section in a public health care professional's resume:

Technical skills: Policy planning and development | Financial planning | People management | Public health procedures
Transferable skills: Communication | Analytical thinking | Attention to detail | Critical thinking | Leadership

Related: 11 Key Community Health Worker Roles For Your Resume

For a cover letter

On a cover letter, you can provide more details about the skills and experience you have that can help you perform the role well. This helps convince the recruiter that you are a suitable candidate who can benefit the organisation. Below is an excerpt from a sample cover letter for a public health professional:

I have the necessary soft and hard skills to excel in this field, owing to my studies in public health and seven years of professional experience. Over the course of my career, I improved my work ethic, communication and leadership skills and analytical thinking. In my previous positions as a public health professional, I was responsible for assessing the success of recommended risk-reduction measures by analysing data and instructed health care professionals on disease prevention and health promotion.

Related: Holistic Nutrition Careers (With Primary Duties And Salary)

For a job interview

Discussing your skills in an interview allows you emphasise the unique accomplishments or qualifications that make you a talented public health expert. Here is a sample response to a skill-related interview question:

"During my 12 years of work experience in this industry, I developed skills in public health education, risk assessment, collaboration with policymakers and health service providers, working with at-risk populations and handling public health crises. My strongest skills are leadership and management, which have helped me resolve challenging national public health issues and work with internal stakeholders to address external public health threats. I am also an active environmental health advocate and have coordinated various activities with environmental health and safety officers."

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