After a year of study with the Department of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health at the University of Heidelberg's Institute of Hygiene, the participants in the English-language graduate course for a Master of Science degree in Community Health and Health Management in Developing Countries received their certificates at a ceremonial send-off organised for them in the Great Hall of the Old University on 8 September. Speeches were made by representatives of the Rector of the University, the Dean of the Medical Faculty, the Department of Tropical Hygiene and the course staff. It is the tenth time the course has taken place, hence the unofficial nickname "Millennium Course".
The course is the only English-language postgraduate programme in public health at university level anywhere in Germany. The idea was born in 1990 under the aegis of the then Professor of Tropical Medicine and director of the Department of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health, Prof. H.-J. Diesfeld. The 176 participants who have taken the course so far have come from over 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe. Naturally most of them were from the medical field or the social sciences, but pharmacists, health administrators, educationalists and even one designer have enriched the interdisciplinary complexion and approach of the course, notably the exchange of experience gleaned in years of working in the health sector in a variety of devloping countries.
Curriculum stresses interaction
The course begins with epidemiology and a broad range of quantitative and qualitative research methods, moving from there to the "heart of the matter", the operative parameters for community-oriented health care and the management of health services and projects. The curriculum attaches major importance to interaction between health staff and populations, both at a content level and in communicative matters, with a view to conveying to the students a participatory management style empowering the population and the non-medical sectors to take an active part in solving health problems.
The course is intensive and full-time but it does not adhere to the traditional term-and-recess rhythm. Instruction blocks of three to eight weeks duration are organised and supervised by one university teacher apiece, thus enabling the application of participatory forms of instruction. The highpoint of the year is an empirical field study project. The multifarious contacts maintained by the Department of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health mean that the participants can spend two months conducting a study in a developing country where they have not yet worked in a professional capacity. After careful preparation they consult with a local tutor on content and method of their study, collect data and send a provisional analysis of the initial results back to their partners. After returning to Heidelberg they can then spend several weeks burning the midnight oil over their final thesis, an essential part of the requirements for achieving the Master of Science title.
When the postgraduate course was set up in 1990 as a model project by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education of the Federal Government and the Federal States, grave misgivings were voiced as to whether such a course had any chance of survival in the everyday wrangling for political priorities, rooms, staff, budgets andnot leastapplicants. 130 to 170 serious candidates for 20 places per year (whittled down from an average of 300 applications annually) showed that there was in fact a much higher demand than had been anticipated. After a very positive external evaluation of the pilot project, the Senate of the University of Heidelberg and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Art resolved in 1993 to let the project run on for an initial further period of 5 years. In June 1998, the unflagging international interest and the firmly established status of the course in the landscape of international further-education offerings in public health then convinced the decision-makers in Heidelberg and Stuttgart that the time had come to put the course on a permanent footing.
Please address any inquiries to:
Abteilung Tropenhygiene und Öff. Gesundheitswesen
University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/564905, fax: 564918
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317