Texas is the second largest state in the U.S., both in terms of population and geographical area. It is found in the south-central part of the country, bordering Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and the country of Mexico. The most popular city, as well as the 4th largest in the country, is Houston, followed by San Antonio, which is the 7th largest city in the country. Texas is known as the “Lone Star State” because it was once an independent republic and had a long struggle to obtain independence from Mexico.
Texas is a large state and has an interesting geography. Geologically, it is home to the Balcones fault line, which has caused unique landscapes to appear. Around 10% of the state is desert land, but the largest populations live on the coastline, in forests, and on grasslands and prairies. The terrain, while commonly associated with deserts, actually ranges from rugged hills to rolling plains, from pine woods to swamps, and from mountains like Big Bend to desert.
Public Health Problems in Texas
A number of priorities have been identified by public health professionals in Texas, particularly:
- Substance abuse disorders
- Mental health
- Unintentional injuries, including through victimization and violence
- Vaccine-preventable diseases and immunizations
- Unplanned pregnancies
Furthermore, focus is also being made on environmental health and how this impacts the health of the population in general.
The five leading causes of death in Texas are:
- Heart disease
- Accidental deaths
Unique Pressures on the Public Health System in Texas
Texas is second only to California in terms of population size. In 2012, around 26 million people lived in the state and 88% of those lived in the metropolitan areas. Over the past decade, the population of the state has continued to increase, and there has also been a marked increase in specific sub-populations. These include Hispanics and people over the age of 65.
The Health Status of Texas report has indicated that the average life expectancy for people in Texas in 2012 was 78.3 years. Interestingly, this is lower than the average in the country by around four months. This has been the case for at least the last decade, and is therefore a particular focus for public health officials in the state.
The leading cause of death in the state, according to the Health Status of Texas report, was chronic disease. A range of risk factors are associated with this, each of which has to be addressed. It was noted that these diseases develop over a long period of time and that affected people can live for many years. Furthermore, chronic diseases are often non-contagious, leading to disability or significant functional impairment. Unfortunately, they also have very low rates of curability.
Interestingly, around 20% of people in Texas report that they believe their physical health is classed as “not good” for at least five days out of the past 30. Furthermore, 20% of Texans also reported that their mental health is classed as “not good” for at least five days out of the past 30. That said, there are a number of different factors that change one’s perception of both mental and physical health. The two most notable factors are educational level and household income.
Getting a Masters in Public Health in Texas
The U.S. News and World Report ranks the MPH degree program offered by the School of Public Health of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston as the 21st best in the country. The program offers students the ability to choose from a number of majors and minors. They are also encouraged to add interdisciplinary concentrations. These concentrations are offered in partnership with other departments of the school and consist of between nine and 14 credit hours of the full degree.
Students must request to complete a specific concentration, which must be signed by both a member of the faculty in which they wish to complete the concentration and an academic advisor. Any practicum experience that students take part in must be relevant to the concentration that they have chosen. Similarly, the topic of their dissertation or thesis must also be relevant to their chosen concentration. The concentration will be noted on the transcript of the student’s degree.
The school offers concentrations in:
- Global Health
- Health Disparities
- Leadership Studies
- Maternal & Child Health
- Nutrition & Public Health
- Physical Activity and Health
In Texas, MPH degree holders can apply for the St. David’s Foundation Public Health Corps Loan Repayment Program, which can repay up to $30,000 of their student debt.
Working in Public Health in Texas
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies most MPH degree holders as medical and health services managers. They have reported good conditions in Texas, specifically that:
- There are 21,840 of these professionals employed in the state.
- Their average annual salary is $104,740, significantly above the national average for this profession of $96,540.
- The national expectation is a 17% growth in demand for the skills of medical and health services managers from 2014 to 2024.
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- Medical and Health Services Managers. (2017, Mar. 31). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119111.htm#st
- The University of Texas – School of Public Health – Concentrations. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sph.uth.edu/academics/concentrations/
- Public Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.texmed.org/PublicHealth/
- Texas Health Data – Health Facts Profiles: Texas, 2013. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://healthdata.dshs.texas.gov/HealthFactsProfiles
- The Health Status of Texas 2014. (2014, Oct.). Retrieved from https://www.dshs.texas.gov/chs/HealthStatusTexas2014.pdf
- St. David’s Foundation Public Health Corps Loan Repayment Program. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hhloans.com/index.cfm?ObjectID=E114B4A9-EC91-DA04-D17E0CF7A0F3970D