Faculty of Health Sciences


Contextual framework of MPH Programme  What is and why public health? and why public


The definition and understanding of public health as a discipline, has always been a source of confusion internationally, even among health workers. The vastness and enormity of the discipline makes it very difficult to simplify. Whilst attempts are made below to explain the concept, it is by no means complete and readers are referred to relevant textbooks for in-depth understanding there-of.

Public health generally is a specialty that is most concerned with holistic approach to health and disease, healthcare services and health system challenges, attempting at all times to answer the scientific questions; what, who, where, when, why and how.

What is the problem? [Is it an epidemic or improved reporting system?]

Who is affected? [Is the problem confined to a particular race, age, ethnic group?]

Where is the problem? [Is it a rural problem or a particular province with specific characteristics?] Why are we having this problem?

Classically a Public Health specialist addresses the question; “but why” problems exist in the health sector and how to solve them?  

E.g. Why is the Infant Mortality Rate high in South Africa, Eastern Cape in particular? Why is the mortality rate among the newly circumcised boys rising in Eastern Cape? Why are diarrhoeal diseases common in rural areas of the Eastern Cape? Why is hospital X always overspending on its budget?

Most importantly, is the question “How to solve all the above   problems?”

Why MPH Programme


The Faculty of Health Sciences endeavours to be a leading Faculty of Health Science in Africa, in Problem Based Learning (PBL), Community Based Education (CBE) and Community Partnerships in order to improve the Quality of Life of all the people served.  


A dynamic and growing MPH programme that produces a cadre of quality public health oriented health professionals who can effectively deal with the health needs of the province and/or within their work environment; an MPH programme that will give birth to other relevant Masters programmes.

Aim of the MPH Programme:

This programme is designed to provide postgraduate training in Public Health to all those, whose work impacts on public health. It aims to prepare such professionals to draw on the knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines to be able to identify, critically assess and resolve public health problems

Programme objectives

  • To train relevant health professionals to identify the risk factors for diseases, understand the diseases indicators and analyse the burden of disease.
  • To train these professionals to be able to assume leadership and/or management roles in the disease prevention strategies, health services and system planning, healthcare services delivery, management and evaluation of health services and systems.
  • To equip health professionals to have a wholistic approach in understanding and dealing with diseases, beyond the clinical curative care.
  • To train these workers in identifying, prioritising, investigating and designing appropriate cost-effective intervention programmes to a public health problem.
  • To assist and equip learners with appropriate skills for them to be able to assist and support policy-makers in the in the development, implementing, monitoring and evaluating appropriate health policies and legislations.

MODE OF DELIVERY Educational approach

The educational approach will have the following characteristics:

All courses will be offered in a modular form. Modularisation of the course is to facilitate vertical and horizontal mobility as well as user-friendliness of the course.  The programme consists of Core/compulsory modules and Elective modules

Facilitation of each module will cover both theoretical and practical aspects of the course material as appropriate.

All modules will be prepared and facilitators drawn from academic, research environment, service organisations and communities

Each learner will be allocated a supervisor for the period of study whose purpose shall be to:

Mentor and coach the learner to develop their research proposal.

Supervise and guide the student with the Research project (including data collection and data analysis).

Guide the student with compiling their research dissertation.

Encourage students and facilitate conference presentations and publications of students’ research findings.

Registered students will, for now, complete the requirements of the degree on part-time basis.

Total Credits for the course is 180

The course will comprise of Core modules with total of 100 credits, a dissertation (comprising 60 credits) prepared from an original self-initiated and supervised research work in the Public Health field, and 2 elective modules (20 credits, 10 credits each module).

The mode of delivery will be through structured contact periods in the form of classroom-based blocks of course units in the Faculty of Health Sciences at WSU and/or designated Centres of the Eastern Cape Academic Health Complex (Complex), as well as distance learning for selected modules.

NB: Attendance to the contact sessions is compulsory for all students.

The learning methods to be employed may include the following:

          Problem-based and problem - solving tutorials in real public health situations

          Active student directed learning

          Expert resource sessions

          Journal Club sessions

Research meetings

          Visits to service centres relevant to the programme objectives

Entry Requirements

A degree in health related field, honours level (NQF 8) or, A degree in social sciences and/or humanities, honours level (NQF 8).

Duration of the Course The course work is delivered over a two year period.

Admission/selection procedure

Preference for admission to the programme will be given to applicants with:

          The minimum entry requirements

          Clearly identified career goals that are consistent with the anticipated training

          A strong academic record and academic preparation

          Written commitment for support (class attendance, tests, assignments, exams, etc.) from employer

A selected number of candidates will be short-listed for an interview, after which, recommendations for final selection for admission will be made. The closing date for applications will be 30 September each year.

Recognition of credits gained prior to registration for the MPH degree With the approval of the Board, a candidate may be exempted from and given credit for:

  • modules which form part of the coursework requirements of the Master of Public Health degree and which have been previously passed by the candidate whilst registered for non-degree purposes or for another qualification
  • Modules forming part of the coursework requirements of the Master of Public Health degree, passed by the candidate whilst registered for the degree MPH degree at another credited institution.

Registration Students who are not fully registered with the University will not be admitted to write examinations.


Learning outcomes

On completion of the Programme the graduate should be able to:

          Play a leadership role in health services planning and management

          Identify, investigate and draw correct conclusions on public health problems and needs.

          Develop appropriate cost-effective intervention programme to any public health matter.

 Design, implement, monitor and evaluate comprehensive, integrated, community participatory public health programmes that are able to meet the public health needs of the communities effectively and efficiently.

          Formulate, assist in implementation, monitor and evaluate health policies and legislations

          Develop a specialist expertise in at least one major area within the field of public health

Summary of Courses

QUALIFICATION / COURSES - Master of Public Health

(MPH)  -  2 Years




Study period – Year 1

Health Measurements

HMS 51M0


Primary Health Care

PHC 52M0


Disease Control

DIS 51M0


Research Methodology

MET 59M0


Social Determinants of Health

Study period – Year 2

SDH 51M0


Health Systems Management

HSM 52M0


Health Information System

HIS 52M0


Monitoring and Evaluation

MOE 51M0


Research Project  

PHP 50M0  




(Student-driven and non-exclusive)

(Any two Electives)

Advanced Epidemiology and Biostatistics

AEP 53M0


Advanced Demography

ADM 54M0


Law and Ethics in Health

HEL 52M0


Medical Sociology and Anthropology

MSA 58M0


Climate change and Health

URB 50M0


Clinical Governance and Leadership  

CGL 50M0  






Assessment  will  be  formative and summative. Each  module  will  be  assessed,  and  needs  to be passed, separately.

Any student who without a valid reason with proof and/or without the permission of the programme coordinator/ Head of Department, fails to present him/herself to a class test, practical, assessment will fail such test.

Any student who does not turn up for the examination without prior arrangement with the programme Coordinators and/or the Head of Department will fail the examination. In the event of unpreventable causes for default, a valid reason with documented proof will be required for admission into special/supplementary examinations.

Computation of Marks

All marks shall be expressed as percentages. The assessment programme, its format as well as test dates shall be communicated to the students timeously each year. The year semester mark is the mark obtained during the formative assessments. The combined mark (final mark) in a prescribed course shall be computed from the arithmetic mean year mark obtained for that course and the examination mark.

In line with the university rules for a degree, diploma, or certificate, a student who fails to obtain an exam pass in

a prescribed course, obtaining between 40 – 49%, but obtains a combined mark of not less than forty five percent (45%) in it, may be permitted by Senate to present himself for supplementary examination. A student who gets a combined mark of less than 45% has failed and will be required to repeat that particular course/module. A student who gets less than 40% in the exam will be required to repeat that particular course/module regardless of their combined mark.  

Supplementary Examinations

Students who fail to obtain 40 – 49% during an examination and a combined mark of not less than 45% may be permitted by senate to present him/her for a supplementary examination. Final supplementary mark will be computed using combined year/semester mark and supplementary examination. A student who fails the supplementary examination (obtaining less than 50%) will be required to repeat the course/module.

Research dissertation

Each student will be required to conduct and report on a self-initiated, original scientific study. The work should be of publishable standard; the subject of which should fall within the scope of Public Health. Original data collection or analysis of secondary data will be acceptable. This will be submitted as mini dissertation following the University guidelines on theses report-writing.

The research work will be assessed based exclusively on a presented thesis which will be externally examined. Oral defence of thesis may form part of the assessment.


A student who fails more than 50% of the prescribed modules for the year shall be excluded on academic ground. Any student who fails a prescribed module after 2 attempts shall be excluded from the programme on academic grounds.

Any student who fails to complete his Masters degree within the prescribed maximum period of registration (four years for full time students, five years for part-time students) shall be excluded from the programme.