Master of Public Health: Core module Descriptions

Note: Only the modules offered in 2019 are described here

Population Health and Development: A Primary Health Care Approach II (SPH855)

This module focuses on the determinants of health in Africa and the burden and pattern of disease across the continent. Issues related to causation, health inequity and the relationship between health and development are discussed in terms of population health and planning Public Health interventions.

The module introduces the Comprehensive Primary Health Care approach which has been designed to address the implications of the underlying determinants of health. In addition, the module explores key issues to be considered in relation to health policy, finances and human resources when establishing a Comprehensive PHC (CPHC) approach to health and health care at district level.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Distance learning plus Short Course at Summer School. The module is supported through Additional Resources and an online Discussion Group.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Measuring Health & Disease II (SPH856)

This module aims to enhance the measurement skills essential for effective Public Health practice. It examines several key concepts, methods and the role of Epidemiology in Public Health. It provides a variety of tools for the assessment and interpretation of health problems. It is intended to enable professionals working in the health sector to bring a critical and analytical insight into Public Health decision-making.

The module consists of six units divided into 4-7 study sessions, one for each topic. The course explores the nature of epidemiological health information, the natural history of disease, Epi Info, causation, study design, infectious diseases, outbreaks, screening and surveillance, the interpretation of data, representation of health information and reporting on an epidemiological event.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Distance learning, online learning and a Summer School Short Course in Semester 1. This is a complex module if you do not have prior experience in biostatistics or the use of an analytical computer package such as Epi Info. Students are strongly advised to take the Short Course, and can elect to stay for the workshop (to be offered on a Saturday during Summer School which provides additional training in Epi Info.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments including an epidemiological report based on a raw data set provided by your lecturers. You will be required to use the computer Programme, Epi Info, to analyse and interpret this
data set.

Health Promotion for Public Health II (SPH859)

This module aims to provide the learner with a theoretical understanding of Health Promotion as well as some practical skills in planning and implementing effective and appropriate Health Promotion Programmes and activities.
The sessions focus on interrogating the main theories of Health Promotion and their application in an underdeveloped country context, outlining the approaches commonly taken in successful Health Promotion Programmes from international examples, and providing the learner with some tools for planning, managing and evaluating district or regional multi-sectoral Programmes. A district-based Programme development case study is used as a teaching tool within the module.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Distance learning and the Summer School short course in Semester 1. The course is offered through a Module Guide, Readings and Additional Resources.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Management Strategies for the Public Health Services II (SPH857)

This module was developed in recognition of the fact that health professionals often hold significant management responsibilities, often without even being called a manager. The module locates management as a key role in relation to health systems strengthening and places emphasis on reflecting on your own management practices and how to improve these.

Important themes in this module are managing by leading, and organisational change as the ongoing context in which managers are required to lead. The teaching focus aims to help you understand your own role as a leader and manager in the context of the public health system, to strengthen your capacity to analyse everyday management and service delivery problems, and to offer guided opportunities to plan improvements which address such problems. Aspects of managing relationships with people are included as well as an appreciation of systems requirements for managing information, finances and other resources to achieve better health.

PRESCRIBED TEXT: Mintzberg, H. (2011). Managing. San Francisco: BK Publishers. Cost: approx R220 via Amazon Books (to be purchased online).

MODE OF DELIVERY: Distance learning, online learning and the Short Winter School Course in Semester 2.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Public Health Research (SPH862)

This module serves to introduce the foundations of Public Health research, guiding you through selected approaches to research, and the foundations of designing a research study. This includes developing a critical literature review, sampling and ethical considerations.

This should place you in a position to select an appropriate approach for your mini-thesis study, enabling you to proceed to a specialized module in your selected approach (Qualitative or Quantitative), through which your protocol will be developed.

PRESCRIBED TEXT: Colin Robson. Real World Research, (2011). John Wiley and Co.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Distance learning and a Short Winter School Course in Semester 2.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Quantitative Research Methods (SPH861)

This module expands your knowledge on the types and design of quantitative research studies including data collection and data management using basic statistics, and measures of association, statistical testing, and sample size and power. The student will get an understanding of the ethical concepts in research with human subjects. The student will be given the opportunity to apply the concepts of validity, reliability and precision for quantitative study design. The student will also be given the opportunity to apply their knowledge in writing a research proposal or report.

At the end of this module students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the ethical principles for conducting research with human subjects.
  • Distinguish between the designs of the most common types of quantitative research studies.
  • Define and identify association, causation, bias and confounding within the context of quantitative research.
  • Apply concepts of validity, reliability and precision within the context of quantitative research.
  • Apply basic data collection, data management, data handling and project management for quantitative research.
  • Analyse and interpret health data using basic biostatistics and statistical computing
  • Define and apply the basic elements of a research proposal and research report.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Summer School short course in Semester 1 as well as online learning.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Qualitative Research Methods (SPH860)

This module aims to develop an understanding of the philosophical and methodological foundations of qualitative approaches to research; more importantly, it aims to develop the capacity to practise and apply its methods to a selected research problem. By the end of the module, students should have sufficient competency and understanding of the approach to develop a qualitative research protocol and after approval, to implement a study addressing a Public Health problem of their choice.

PREREQUISITE: Students are required to take this module after completing the Public Health Research module.

By the end of this module students should be able to:

  • Present a rationale for choosing a qualitative research for a research problem in terms of the theoretical (philosophical) underpinnings of qualitative research.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the kinds of problems or questions best addressed by qualitative methods.
  • Engage in flexible (qualitative) research design showing an understanding of the stages of design, characteristics, purpose and application of qualitative research techniques. This will include the following outcomes:

Describe a research problem and its Public Health context;

Develop a study aim and objectives;

  • Identify the information and the data sources which will be required to address this problem.
  • Develop tools for collecting data from these sources.
  • Select and provide a rationale for data collection techniques selection.
  • Practice three data collection techniques.
  • Propose a data collection sample and provide a rationale for it.
  • Propose the intended process of analysis, provide a rationale for these choices and practice the technique.
  • Describe the purpose and process of different approaches to qualitative research.
  • Present a logically argued plan for ensuring rigour of the study.
  • Describe and use ethical procedures in qualitative research.
  • Analyse and discuss examples of selected qualitative approaches and critique their design and rigour.
  • Present a logically argued plan for ensuring rigour in your study.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Short course at Summer school in Semester 1 and distance learning.

ASSESSMENT: Minimum of two assignments.

School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape
Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville 7535, Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27-21 - 959 2809 | Fax: +27- 21 - 959 2872 | Email: