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Public Health Historian

Gather data on past epidemics to prevent them from happening again.

What does a Public Health Historian do?

Learning from the past is the goal of a Public Health Historian. Plagues and pandemics have occurred throughout history, and Public Health Historians carefully study these events to find out what helped, what didn’t, and what to do to prevent another health emergency.

As a Public Health Historian, you likely work for a university or a government agency. Universities focus on building extensive collections of materials for scholarly research, while the government focuses more on data analysis and problem solving.

The research part of your work includes collecting oral histories, newspaper articles, interviews, videos, and medical records of certain diseases. You sort, catalog, and store these items. In some cases, you’re the Analyst as well as the researcher. You look at how a group reacted to an outbreak, and find better ways to deal with similar situations.

Of course, your studies focus on more than decades-old diseases. A bad case of the flu from a few years ago is just as vital to studying the rise or fall in flu-related illness since then. Global and environmental health issues also play a role in your work. Problems like pollution can have unexpected effects on the public’s health.

A natural problem solver, you both track down the information you need and assemble it into the final picture. Whether that picture is a pie chart of illness by age group or a 20-page report on the eradication of smallpox, you use the past to improve the future.