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Postgraduate Teaching

Master of Public Health specialising in Health Systems

The Health Systems Track is intended for those candidates who have an interest in seeking to change, managing within, or researching the health system. The focus is the health system as a whole - rather than particular health services, or condition specific programmes or health problems. Health system concerns address the complex range of factors that underpin service delivery (such as human resource development and management, financing and resource allocation, information systems, supply chain management and overarching models of care). Understanding how these factors interact and influence health system performance is an essential starting point for thinking about how to change and strengthen the system. Also important, is understanding the politics of policy change, the factors influencing whether health system reforms and wider health interventions are developed and implemented in ways that support achievement of their goals. The compulsory courses provide grounding in the multi-disciplinary perspectives relevant to understanding and working at the level of the overarching health system.

Track Convenor:  Assoc Prof Jill Olivier


Class of 2019

Introduction to Health Systems (PPH7093F)

This course aims to provide an introduction to the core elements of any health system, understanding health systems as complex systems comprised of components, actors and inter-relationship. It provides a platform of understanding relevant to health systems analysis, action and research. By the end of this course students are expected to be able to show understanding of the dynamic and complex nature of health systems; discuss health systems as social constructions, influenced by and influencing the agents within them; apply these understandings to assessment different health system; apply relevant analytical skills and an understanding of complex systems in order to develop ideas about action to strengthen health systems; develop personal communication, teamwork and leadership skills; and demonstrate understanding of and openness to different perspectives on the nature of health systems.

Co-Convenors: Prof Lucy Gilson & Assoc Prof Jill Olivier

Health Systems Research and Evaluation (PPH7094S)

This course is an introduction to health systems research and evaluation methods. It seeks to open up the “black box” of the health system, and the contemporary approaches to studying it, with the view to encouraging students to consider future research in this field. By the end of the course participants are expected to be able to:  identify researchable HPS issues; formulate substantively relevant HPS research questions; be familiar with the range of research purposes, questions and strategies used within HPSR; identify appropriate research strategies and study designs for HPSR; show awareness of critical issues in, and approaches to, ensuring rigour in HPSR; be aware of critical ethical issues for HPSR; be able to source and critically appraise HPSR materials; appreciate the value of multiple perspectives (positional and disciplinary) in conducting HPSR; have some understanding of how the complex and socially constructed nature of health policy and health systems is addressed in HPSR methodology; plan activities that support the use of research evidence for and in decision‐making; recognise that personal skills, such as reflexivity, listening and facilitation, are critical to being an HPS researcher.

Co-Convenors: Assoc Prof Jill Olivier & Prof Lucy Gilson

Health Policy and Planning (PPH7041S)

This course introduces participants both to the field of policy analysis and to critical issues in health policy. Policy analysis focuses on understanding the political and social forces that influence why and how policies are (or, sometimes, are not) initiated, formulated, negotiated, communicated, implemented and evaluated, drawing on political science and public administration perspectives. This includes action to prevent policy decisions being taken. This approach to policy analysis understands policy as a process, and in this approach the term ‘policy’ to encompass more than the documents, legislation and guidelines often seen as the end point of ‘policy development’. Instead, policy is seen as including the expectations and understandings that policy actors, including beneficiaries and those responsible for implementation, have about the meanings of those documents and how they translate them into their daily practices. So, policies are reflected in the formal, deliberate decisions to do things differently, as well as in the failure to take action or to change and in the routines and practices that are experienced as the reality of health systems.

Course convenor: Prof Lucy Gilson

Post Graduate Diploma in Health Leadership (Oliver Tambo Fellowship Programme)

The PG Dip in Health Management is one of the longest existing health management courses the country, and is the central element of the Oliver Tambo Fellowship programme. The programme has a large network of alumni of over 250 graduates spread across the country, the majority of whom are in senior and middle management positions in the public health sector. The Diploma thus contributes significantly to the strengthening of health management and leadership in the South African Health System.

As part of our constant efforts to maintain high standards and the relevance of our teaching, the Diploma has recently been refreshed in order to bring new teaching and learning modalities to bear on the development of health leadership and management capacity. In particular,work-place based learning and support is now a stronger central element of the refreshed programme curriculum.  Team-based training is encouraged. The target audience of the refreshed Diploma extends to participants from all sectors who seek to create public value.

Intake for 2021 is 01 April 2020. For more detailed information on the Diploma, please visit the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Leadership web page.

OTF Programme celebrates 25 years

Convenor:  Assoc Prof Maylene Shung-King