School of Public Health Winter School: 25 years and 12 000 graduates later, still helping professionals become better
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) School of Public Health celebrated the 25th year of its annual Winter School in June and July 2017, bringing the latest thinking in public health to a new crop of community health practitioners and researchers.
The SOPH Summer and Winter Schools attracts a wide range of audiences - largely people within the health services, but also researchers, community health practitioners and health activists. Each year, they take a break from their busy schedules to be exposed to the latest thinking in public health, and to share their views and experiences.
The short course programme provides responsive continuing education to health services providers, as well as contact time for some far-flung postgraduate students. It enables participants to discuss and exchange ideas on improved planning and implementation of Primary Health Care in the continually changing environment of the developing world.
Courses offered include: clinical trials and indigenous herbal medicine; computerized district health information systems; health management; medicines supply management; rational medicines use; and many, many more.
SOPH: Education For Making A Difference
To date, some 12 000 participants - mainly nurses and middle level managers - have attended these courses from all over South Africa and many other African countries.
Nosi Kalawe, a HAST (HIV/Aids, STIs and TB) medical officer with the Western Cape Department of Health attended the Rational Medicines Use (RMU) course at the Winter School.
“It’s been very relevant to what I’m doing,” she says. “I wanted to develop skills to help me supervise better, and also to be able to evaluate medical use - and that’s what I did. I can’t wait to put what I’ve learned into practice.”
Asiphe Ketelo is an on-campus Public Health student who participated in the Monitoring and Evaluation of Health and Development programmes.
"It was a great experience for me, meeting health professionals who work directly with communities,” she notes. “It gave me a clear picture of what these health professionals do and the difficulties they encounter - such as the constant challenge to find necessary resources. I’m so much more motivated to start my career in this field now - and make a real difference."
According to Prof Uta Lehmann, Director of the SOPH, the Winter School continues to be true to the original vision of the late Jakes Gerwel, former Vice-Chancellor of UWC who championed the creation of the SOPH, and believed that the School’s short courses and academic programme were essential for transforming the South African healthcare systems into a community-participative PHC service.
The success of these courses lies in their relevance - not only do many return to Winter School to take up other courses, or enrol in the public health postgraduate programme at UWC, but the graduates take their newfound skills out to make a difference in the world.
Participants of the 2017 Current Thinking and Practice in Health Promotion just after a session on understanding the Social Determinants of Health.
Participants of the 2017 Health Management course.
Dr Gilbert Buckle, a medical doctor from Ghana receives his certificate from UWC’s DVC for Student Development and Support, after completing the Understanding and Analysing Health Policy course. From left: Dr Gilbert Buckle, Prof. Pamela Dube (DVC: SDS) , Prof Uta Lehmann (SOPH Director).