Health Science Connection for Secondary & Post-Secondary Educators
OCTOBER   2014
Dear (Contact First Name), 

The Area Health Education Center, Office of Public Instruction and Department of Public Health and Human Services have formed a partnership to achieve a healthier Montana by pursuing the goals and strategies described in the state health improvement plan and to build a public health and health care system that supports these goals. Join us as we highlight health priorities, highlight careers in public health, and offer activities for the classroom to reinforce these goals. A healthy population is essential to a healthy economy. Let's build a healthier Montana together!

Montana State Health Improvement Plan - Strengthen the Public Health and Health Care System


The public health system consists of a variety of public, private, individual, associations and voluntary aspects that promote and protect public health. Strengthening the public health care system is necessary within all components in order to assure that the health care needs are met within populations.


Some goals stated within the "Plan to Improve the Health of Montanans" are;

  • Enhance use of health information technology
  • Strengthen local boards of health
  • Promote the use of quality improvement methods to strengthen public health and health care services, programs, and processes
  • Accelerate the use of the national Public Health Accreditation Board's national standards for public health practice by state, local, and tribal public health agencies

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. (2013). Big Sky. New horizons. A healthier Montana: A plan to improve the health of Montanans. [PDF file]. Available at: [Accessed 29 May 2014].

"Good health and good sense are two of life's greatest blessings." 

- Publilius Syrus 


Prevention and Public Health Fund


Strengthening Public Health and Public Health Care is addressed within the Affordable Care Act in Section 4002. Specifically it is addressed through the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). The PPHF is the first mandatory funding stream within the nation that is focused specifically on improving the nation's public health. "By law, the Fund must be used 'to provide for expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth in private and public health care costs.'"


Uses of the fund:

  • Community Prevention
  • Clinical Prevention
  • Public Health Infrastructure and Training
  • Research and Tracking

American Public Health Association. (2014).  Prevention and Public Health Fund. Retrieved from [Accessed 29 May 2014]. 

Why is Strengthening Public Health and the Public Health Care System Necessary?


Seven in ten individuals die each day in the U.S. from preventable diseases. These diseases range from; "obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer." Most of the money spent on health care (75%) goes toward the treatment of these diseases and only 3% goes toward prevention. This information shows that preventative efforts are greatly needed in order to strengthen the public health of our nation and health care system and reduce the overall losses from preventable diseases within our society.


American Public Health Association. (2014). Prevention and public health fund: Dedicated to improving our nation's health. [PDF file]. Available at:  [Accessed 29 May 2014].

How Can We Strengthen Public Health and the Public Health Care System?


In order to improve health, preventative measures are necessary. Some actions of prevention can include education, ways to control environment (home, life, etc.), disease management, etc. A major aspect is personal responsibility and understanding the role of being a healthy individual as a patient and as a U.S. citizen. Prevention allows individuals to have a better quality life and improves longevity. Prevention also provides collective benefits which include keeping the health care system efficient and affordable. 


National Prevention Council, National Prevention Strategy, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General. (2011).National prevention strategy: America's plan for better health and wellness. [PDF file]. [Accessed 29 May 2014].


While focusing on preventative health, this lesson plan allows students to become aware of their nutrition and activity levels over a period of time. It provides an understanding of health within their environment and on the community level. This free lesson plan is available at:


Public health is a community effort. This lesson plan allows students to identify and research the needs within their community while focusing on service activities. Please check out these free lesson plans that focus on addressing community health:


The importance of health insurance and chronic illness is a focus within this lesson plan. It allows students to examine health insurance coverage and the issues that arise. The free lesson plan is available here:


It is also important to know the costs, processes, and the differences of health care overall and among different countries. This lesson plan demonstrates that:


alling all college students interested in health professions!


Whether you are already in a health science program of study or still considering your options, joining a post-secondary HOSA chapter will allow you to explore careers in health through competitive events, job shadowing and educational symposiums with medical professionals.


College students who join HOSA will also receive FREE membership to the National Rural Health Association, courtesy of the MT Office of Rural Health!


And if that's not enough, HOSA also offers scholarships for school and opportunities to prepare for the MCAT or NCLEX Exams, 


There are 57 diffierent competitive events to compete in at State and National Leadership Conferences. You can even compete in Epidemiology, Public Health, Healthy Lifestyles, or CERT skills.


Find out more about Montana HOSA: CLICK HERE


REACH is an acronym for Research and Explore Awesome Careers in Health. The regional AHECs set up a partnership between local hospitals and high schools to provide students the opportunity to visit their local hospital and participate in hands-on activities in a variety of departments.


The Eastern Montana AHEC region is hosting these REACH events:


October 8th in Red Lodge - Open for students from Red Lodge, Bridger, Joliet, Roberts, Belfry and Fromberg

November 12th in Lewistown - Open for students from Lewistown, Stanford, Hobson, Geyser, Grass Range, Moore, Roy, Denton, Winnett, and Winifred

November 18th in Miles City - Open for students in Custer, Garfield, Prairie, Fallon, Carter and Powder River counties


The Western Montana AHEC region is hosting these REACH events:


October -  Open for Troy High School at Cabinet Peaks, in Libby.

November - Open for Arlee at Providence St. Pat's (tentative)

November - Open for Alberton, Regis & Superior at Mineral Community Hospital, in Superior

December - Open for Big Sky Health Science Academy at UM College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences


 A state medical officer is a government official who is a physician and works with the state health department. A state medical officer advises other government officials, elected representatives, health professionals and the public about public health.


The salary range for Chief Medical Officers at state health departments reported to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in 2010 was $138,545 to $199,613.(


Q. How and why did you choose this career?

A. After medical school and training in preventive medicine I worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for several years as a medical epidemiologist. The work was fun and very interesting, so interesting I made it a career. In 2005 I was given the opportunity to be the state medical officer in Montana. This job allowed me to continue practicing medical epidemiology as well as work with a wide variety of public health policy and organizational issues.


Q. What does a typical day in your work life look like?

A. This question makes me think about the past as well as the present. For many years my work mostly involved working with people face-to-face and by telephone. In recent years, however, I spend more and more time working with a computer and other electronic devices in order to communicate with people and stay up-to-date with medical and public health information. Most work days also include meetings with groups of people, including workers in the state health department and other government agencies as well as health professionals. The range of topics is broad and very interesting. Topics include communicable diseases, chronic diseases, injuries, and prevention issues important to all Montanans. I also write and edit publications including the monthly "Montana Public Health-Prevention Opportunities under the Big Sky." Publications like this are an important way to communicate public health information in Montana.


[Feel free to read this monthly publication at]

Q. What are your working conditions like?

A. I work with a terrific team at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. For most issues there is time to analyze information and talk with others involved with a topic before decisions need to be made. So, stress is not a major issue. I travel throughout the state which is a special bonus because Montana has so many beautiful places to see. The work environment consists mostly of an office, computer, telephone, and meeting rooms. A state medical officer works more than 9am to 5pm and more than Monday through Friday.


Q. What educational requirements are needed for your career?

A. IA medical degree is required and additional training in public health is highly desirable. I think training and experience in epidemiology is essential to work with contemporary public health challenges. While I encourage interested students to pursue medical education, I realize only a few will go to medical school. For those who do attend medical school, I hope they consider a public health career. Whether or not students pursue medical education many can pursue careers in public health. Everyone who works in public health can enhance their effectiveness and their careers by getting training in epidemiology.


Q. What skills and abilities are necessary in your profession?

A. When it gets down to it, besides having an extensive educational background for a State Medical Officer or Medical Epidemiologist role, I think the essential skill and ability is to pay attention to detail and listen carefully to what people are saying. In these roles knowledge of statistics and use of 21st Century technology are also essential.


Q. Any final thoughts?

A. I might emphasize further that many opportunities exist to work in public health settings and particularly in epidemiology. There is a great need for well trained epidemiologists. I hope individuals training in the health professions, medical or non-medical, give some thought to epidemiology. It is a very useful way to work with health issues, and it is a fun career!


(ASTHO) Association of State and Territiorial Health Officials. Public health workforce: Key findings on state health agency workforce from the 2010 profile of state public health [PowerPoint slides, pg. 12].


Helgerson, S. (2014, June 13). Telephone interview. 


International Centre for Health Innovation: "Strengthening Health Systems 
Through Innovation: Lessons Learned" -


American College of Physicians: "Physicians Call for Improvements to Country's Public Health System to Protect U.S. Residents" -

In This Issue
MT Health Improvement Plan
Prevention and Public Health Fund

The National Prevention Strategy aims to guide our nation in the most effective and achievable means for improving health and well-being. Check it out - HERE


Quick Links

Please contact us with your comments, ideas, questions or projects you'd like to see highlighted in future issues of this e-newsletter. And thank you for the work you do every day to inspire and support public health initiatives and health care in Montana!


Renee Harris
Montana Area Health Education Center (AHEC)