by Dr Deborah Thompson
Public Health Registrar, North West Deanery
Never before has the world been so connected. The internet allows public health professionals across the globe to exchange ideas, evidence and learning more than ever before. So how can we take advantage of the wide range of international e-networks to promote professional development both in the UK and abroad?
Meet Ezra Yakubu Yarima from Nigeria. Ezra is a student with Peoples-uni, a charity established in 2007 that provides online Masters level public health education for those working in low-to-middle income countries (LMICs). Ezra uses e-learning so her expertise is retained ‘in-country’ and access to learning is both affordable and available:
“As is the case with most Africans, with an average monthly pay saddled with family responsibilities, I knew a foreign online MPH degree was rather out of reach for me; so the initiative of Pu to be a low cost degree was just awesome and a welcomed development. Pu has greatly improved my skills and knowledge and I encourage all who desire to see the developing world reduce the burden of diseases to contribute to sustaining this noble “project’’. We owe it to Pu to return as tutors! That’s the least we can do.”
People’s-uni illustrates that lack of resources need not be a barrier to providing valuable teaching/capacity building. We use a social model of capacity building, with volunteer academic and support staff and Open Educational Resources available online. Student feedback informs us how they are using their learning to shape and improve public health systems in their home districts. Students are also beginning to return as tutors, to further shape the learning that our programmes offer.
Peoples-uni now has an established global network of 110 active volunteers and more than 1000 current and alumni students. Students come from more than 40 countries, mainly within Africa. We have around 500 module enrolments per year and over 100 students have enrolled on the Master of Public Health Programme, which is accredited by Manchester Metropolitan University.
So what does Peoples-uni mean to most of you reading from the comforts of your home computer/mobile phone? Being part of Peoples-uni gives you the chance to connect with the international health community through a two-way process of keeping up to date with global health issues, and sharing your public health skills and knowledge.
Perhaps you have a special interest and want to support a dissertation student, help us evaluate outcomes, help create a module, or offer expert advice when we review our learning materials? Or you have ideas about how to link our education with programmes you manage in low-to-middle income countries (LMICs)? Perhaps you want to join our alumni network, which enables two-way mentorship and supports collaborative research? Edward Chilolo, is currently looking for advice on developing TB strategies for a Reproductive and Child health clinic in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. If you a health protection expert who can assist, please contact debsjkay[at]gmail.com.
Or perhaps you are involved in medical and public health training, and aware that global health is now recognised as a core academic requirement. Why not get in touch with Peoples-uni so we can work together to deliver a tailored global health module that combines e-learning resources with ‘real-life’, ‘real-time’ discussions with other PH professionals in LMICs.
These are just a few ideas about how we can link up the Faculty of Public Health and Peoples-uni networks, but we’re keen to hear yours. You can also help us spread the message about Peoples-uni: