Public Health

Public health medicine is the vocational branch of medicine concerned with protecting and improving the health of the population rather than treating individual patients. Public health doctors respond to health risks and communicable disease/environmental risks to minimise further cases, monitor the health status of the community, develop programmes to reduce risk and to screen for early disease, and plan for the provision of health care.

Registrars undertaking vocational training in public health medicine in New Zealand complete a four-year training programme, which consists of 16 months Basic Training (during which time a Masters of Public Health is completed) and a further 29 months of Advanced Training.


Doctor of Public Health at Auckand Hospital

Interview - Dr Suneela Mehta

Dr Suneela Mehta is a Public Health Registrar; and has a total of over 5 years of experience working in the Auckland Region. Suneela talks to Auckland Doctors about an exciting career in Public Health!
Dr Lavinia Perumal, Public Health Registrar, Auckland Hospital, New Zealand

Interview - Dr Lavinia Perumal

Want to know more about what it's like to work in Public Health as a registrar? Lavinia explains why she choose this specialty and what is involved with training
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Sub Specialities

The Training Programme aims to develop the core skills and professional attributes required for Fellows to undertake a broad variety of roles and challenges while practising public health medicine.

These roles include the following:

    • The Medical Officer of Health role which requires an ability to work as part of a team with other public health professionals to protect and promote the health of that community.
    • Research and teaching roles which require a high level of epidemiology expertise
    • Strategy, planning and policy advisors working on a variety of regulatory and health matters which span both personal health and population health, and include needs assessment, service development and planning of programmes 
    • Leadership and management roles within the health sector


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How to train to be a Public Health Specialist

The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM) administers and provides the training programme. For more information visit the College website.

Upon being accepted into the Training Programme, registrars in basic training are paid a study grant by Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ). During advanced training, registrars work at a minimum of three training sites, including a compulsory placement at a public health unit, district health boards (e.g. funding and planning roles), universities, NGOs and the Ministry of Health. Six-to-twelve months of advanced training is undertaken at a public health unit, and most Auckland registrars complete this attachment at the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS). Other registrars in the Auckland region have undertaken this placement at Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland DHBs.

Registrars choose, in discussion with their supervisor (the Training Programme Supervisor), the length and site of their other placements, and negotiate a training position directly with the work site and their potential trainer. Registrars are expected to choose training sites that enable them to develop the core skills and professional attributes by the completion of their training time. Public Health training is largely project based, so registrars may be employed for a particular project which is not likely to be on-going. For this reason, a registrar position may not be a continuous role in an organisation, and even when subsequent registrars are employed at the same training site the nature of the job they are employed to do may be very different to previous registrars.

There are around 10 registrars in the Northern region (Waikato north). Once basic training is completed registrars can organise their own advanced training positions with approval from the Training Programme Supervisor. Registrars have found training positions in workplaces such as:

  • Public Health Units (Northland, Auckland, Waikato)
  • DHBs (Northland, Waitemata, Auckland, Counties Manukau, Waikato)
  • NZ Heart Foundation
  • PHOs
  • Ministry of Health (screening unit, public health team)
  • University (School of Population Health)
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Who can I talk to and where to next?

To discuss training opportunities please contact:

Sarah Targett - Training Programme - Public Health
New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine
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+64 9 631 0707

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