The Grossest Jobs in Public Health

In the public health field, we deal with a lot of things that are, shall we say, unsavory. In fact, we’ll just call them outright gross. In honor of Halloween, here are the top 5:

1. Looking at Poop

Yep, poop. Doody. Excrement. There are people in public health labs all across the United States and the world who are looking at poo under a microscope. Just for fun, you say? Not so much. But this function is extremely important toidentifying and stopping the spread of diseases like E. coli.

Stool Sample

2. Your Naughty Bits

In public health, we really encourage people to use actual terms like penis and vagina instead of cute ones like “naughty bits”, so I’ll just say…we have to deal with your hoo-has and your pee-pees. Many health departments have the capabilities to test for most, if not all, sexually transmitted infections (also called sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs). In order to do that, well, sometimes we gotta deal with ongoing infections. Sometimes the infections are not pleasant to deal with, and certainly not for the people who have them. But just remember, without public health professionals, your sex education goes a little something like this:

3. Your House

People–we’re a crazy lot. Some people are neat, some people are messy. Some people like to keep their house tidy, some people never clean it and have 90 cats and dogs that live there. Ever seen the show Hoarders? Yeah, that show is an accurate representation of what public health officials deal with fairly often.

I mean…

Gross House 1

What the what?

Gross House 2

How come?


Next time you see someone who does this for a living, give them a thanks for what they do. Because this is what they have to deal with.

4. Where You Eat

We just talked about where you live, now let’s talk about where you eat. Public health officials regularly inspect restaurants and other food-related places of business. Sounds like a fun job where you can just walk in to the kitchen, see that everything is clean, and sign off on that kitchen passing inspection. Unfortunately, this process is very involved, and sometimes restaurants fail inspection. Sometimes they fail spectacularly.

Don’t keep your hazardous chemicals next to food.

Dirty Restaurant 1

Clean your stuff maybe more than once a decade

Dirty Restaurant 2

No no no no no no no

Dirty Restaurant 3

5. Where You Swim

If you knew…if you really knew…all the things that float around in water, you may think twice about swimming. Thankfully, there are people who inspect public pools to make sure they are safe and you’re not drinking poop water. Everything always comes back to poop, doesn’t it?

Mr Hanky

Happy Halloween (and Merry Christmas) from Mr. Hanky and your friends at the Orders of Magnitude blog!

One thought on “The Grossest Jobs in Public Health

  1. patriciawaldron

    Wow, and you didn’t even get to other types of public health lab testing like tuberculosis-laced sputum, vaginal swabs, and the occasional hunk of organ. Happy Halloween!

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