Public health graduate program formed in Tanzania with local help

By Susan Anderson

The office of global health and international partnerships at the University of Calgary faculty of medicine have negotiated a partnership to send faculty members to Tanzania and help establish a graduate program in Public Health. Eighteen medical faculty members, mostly from the department of community health sciences, will travel to the Bugando University College of Health Sciences in Mwanza, Tanzania to teach courses or assist the Tanzanian professors by providing information on operating a graduate program.

“This is their first public health graduate program at BUCHS, so they asked if we would be actively involved in trying to get this program set up,” said Dr. Tyrone Donnon, a key leader in the initiative.

Donnon is traveling to Tanzania this week to work with Tanzanian colleagues and setup the graduate program framework.

“There is a real need for this masters of public health program now that the government in Tanzania is insisting that all district medical officers in the country have appropriate credentials with respect to their position,” said Donnon.

In Tanzania, many prevalent health problems are preventable. When resources are limited the most appropriate, relevant and cost effective health practice is prevention of disease and promotion of health. The immediate barrier to better health care is the lack of trained public health physicians or professionals who can teach, design, implement and manage community health programs, explained Donnon.

Though the Tanzania government wanted as many as 15 students in the program, there are currently eight Tanzanian students studying. Numbers have been kept low because it is the pilot year.

The program is a year long and the students will graduate at the end of August.

“The program is up and running,” said Donnon. “We will deal with barriers as they come up, but they’re very supportive of us coming and working with them.

“We feel if we can train their faculty well enough on the course content then they’ll be able to eventually just take over the program from us but we’ll constantly play a role in helping them maintain the program and making sure that it is sustainable for as long as possible.”

U of C professors will focus on building the necessary infrastructure and capacity for the program to continue in their absence.

“The program is negotiated and based on local needs and priorities. It’s very very exciting, a real achievement,” said global health and international partnerships associate dean Dr. Jennifer Hatfield.

Hatfield was involved in the initial stages of the program and has worked in Tanzania over the past six years.

Hatfield said the faculty at the U of C will benefit from getting international experience and from giving back to the international community.

“The social responsibility mandate is being practiced not just in Canada, but globally,” said Hatfield, “It’s something we can all be incredibly proud of.”

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