Latest News

Guide on building public health capacity through a short course professional development programme

Building capacity guideThe School of Public Health (SOPH) has been hosting continuing professional development short course programmes since its inception in 1992.  One  of  these is the three-week Winter School programme comprising 18 to 25 courses, most a week long. Through this programme, between 250 and 500 health and health-related workers are  exposed  to  the latest thinking in public health, enabling them to discuss and exchange ideas on improved planning and implementation of primary health care, district health systems and health equity.

Some of these courses are also used as teaching blocks for our Master of Public Health (MPH) degree which is offered using distance learning methods. In this way our postgraduate students who are studying in various countries, particularly in Africa, come to our School and interact with staff and fellow students –   as well as with the local practitioners attending short courses for professional development purposes.

Why this guide

In the past few years we have often been asked by colleagues in schools of public health and similar institutions, both in South Africa and in other parts  of the continent, what it takes to set up and continue running such a large and sustained programme in an academic institution; why does interest not wane; and how do we manage the focus, substance and logistics of this programme.

This guide endeavours to respond to these questions - to assist those university colleagues who are considering the development of similar continuing professional development programmes in the health and related social sectors, both in South Africa and further afield.

It does not aim to provide a blueprint, however, as continuing education programmes inevitably  have  to fit into and respond to specific contexts. Rather it raises the key themes, questions and issues to consider when planning such a programme – enriched with reflections from staff and participants about our programme at the School of Public Health at UWC.

What is in the guide

While the guide focuses on public health, many of  the themes are generic to continuing professional development programmes in the public sector and can be used and/or adapted for other fields.

Written by Prof Uta Lehmann and freelancer Penny Morrell – in consultation with various SOPH staff - it was made possible by the support from the Belgium Development Cooperation and the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp; and the WHO-funded Masters programme with a focus on Health Workforce Development (2009-2015).


The guide covers the following issues, structured into seven chapters:

  • It provides a history of the programme through the eyes of some of colleagues who initiated, and were involved in, it from its inception.

Chapter 1: Background: History of the UWC School of Public Health’s professional development programme
Chapter 2: Contexts, interests and needs

  • It opens the door to the ‘engine room’ and logistics of the programme, from advertising and marketing to organising teaching venues and materials, and managing accreditation.

Chapter 3: Resources
Chapter 4: Administration and logistics

  • It offers insight into our approaches to choosing topics, developing curricula and how we work with adult learners.

Chapter 5: Designing the curriculum and programme
Chapter 6: Facilitating adult learning

  • It identifies the issues you might consider and the decisions you will need to take when offering a professional development programme through short courses.

Chapter 7: Checklists: Assessing feasibility and designing your short course programme


The guide is available on the SOPH website at http:// Guide_Building-public-health-capacity-through-a- short-course.pdf

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: