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“Learning together to work together for better health”

In South Africa, the need to strengthen its health system based on the principles of primary healthcare has become one of the most urgent challenges for policymakers, health professionals, health workers, managers and community members. In order for effective collaboration and improved health outcomes, two or more health professionals from different professional backgrounds must first be provided with opportunities to learn about, from and with each other. This interprofessional education is essential in preparing our health science students to practice collaboratively in order to provide a comprehensive service in a wide range of healthcare settings. It is within these settings where the contribution towards a strengthened health system can be made.

The Interprofessional Education Unit (IPEU) at the University of the Western Cape was established to provide interprofessional educational and collaborative practice opportunities for health science students. A core interprofessional curriculum was developed which spans from the first year to the final year of study. Sites of collaborative practice where students engage with each other and stakeholders to deliver interprofessional services in rural and urban communities as well as at primary, secondary, and tertiary clinical sites were also established.

The IPEU has a strong commitment to building IPE capacity amongst the faculty staff, student supervisors, and clinicians for their roles in developing, delivering and evaluating interprofessional education. Building a regional IPE network to share best practices, challenges and opportunities in the African context is essential.

The IPEU at UWC is dedicated to the transformation of health professions education and the health system, with its programmes showcasing the range of IPE projects undertaken at the university. These programmes shape the education and training of students for a strong, flexible and collaborative health workforce, that is able confront the highly complex health challenges of today.