Meeting real needs? Education in Public Health critically reviewed.


How well do Masters’ programs in Public Health fit to the actual needs of senior health professionals? KIT and five other institutions joined forces and collectively designed a scientific method. They interviewed their alumni and got quantitative output that allowed them to measure the impact of the Masters of Public Health. The answers have been published in an academic paper published in academic journal Human Resources for Health this month. And KIT has reasons to be pleased with the outcome.

Historical background

In 2006 World Health Organisation raised the alarm – over 50 countries in the world have far less than the absolute minimum of qualified health care staff to provide adequate medical care to their population. Since then, little has changed. Similar scarcity is estimated for medical management en senior research staff positions. Six Education institutes have tried to tackle this shortage by offering Masters’ degrees in Public Health.

Questions raised

How well do these Masters’ programs fit to the actual needs of the health professionals that choose to enrol? How do they look back on their professional development and what success and skills do they attribute to their degree? How has the study enabled the students to health management, policy making and influence society in their region and how did it effect their professional career development? These and more questions were answered by 445 graduates from the six Masters’ in Public Health offered in Sudan, the Netherlands, Mexico, China, Vietnam & South Africa. Simultaneously, the researchers undertook a qualitative research by interviewing alumni, their peers and their supervisors, which results will be published later this year.

Validating higher education in Public Health

The study addressed a need in the higher education sector. Previous studies never addressed the outcome and impact of this Master degree whereas prospective students, donors and management are keen to know whether the education offered is needs-based, adequate and cost effective. The outcome of this study was primarily positive.

KIT alumni doing well

Prisca Zwanikken, head of KIT Educational programs: “we always say that our alumni are doing well, and make a contribution to improving health worldwide. Now we have the evidence to support that claim. The alumni that responded (35%) reported many positive effects of their masters’ degree. What I particularly liked is to see that though about 30% of our alumni do moves to international organisations such as World Health Organization, they do stay in their own regions. Less than 5% reportedly moved away from their region, so the feared brain drain effect of having attended Higher Education in the “West” has not materialized in the case of our students. Also I really liked to see that our students are particularly focused and successful in managing public health interventions strategies and influencing health policy development towards disadvantaged groups such as poor women or people living with HIV/AIDS.”

Developing local leadership in Public Health

The Masters of Public Health clearly have a positive contribution towards developing local leadership in Public Health. They become tools of change, changing health and health policy all over the world. And many of them attribute that to their Masters’ at these six institutes. Prisca Zwanikken: “our work is not done yet. We are always improving and responding to changing needs of our students and developments in the field. One of the target areas I think we can make significant improvement is intersectoral collaboration. How can managers and policymakers in health work together with other sectors to make an even larger impact on health, therefor improving people’s life.”

Interested to know more about KIT’s master degree in Public Health? Visit the Master in Public Health page.