Master of Public Health (NQF Level 9)

The Master of Public Health (MPH) aims to equip graduates to: identify, quantify and prioritise health needs at population level; design, implement and evaluate Public Health interventions or programmes and policies; demonstrate leadership in transforming aspects of the health services and system; and to conduct related research.

There are two modes available to students wanting to pursue a structured MPH:

Mode1: Coursework & Mini Thesis, or

Mode 2: Full Thesis Research Project

For the coursework & a mini thesis (Option 1), the MPH Programme is made up of eight coursework modules, six compulsory components (which includes two research methodology modules) and two electives and a mini-thesis. See programme handbook for the description of the modules.

For the full thesis research mode (Option 2), students must select a topic and design and complete a research project that is situated within the scope of topics and approaches covered in the Areas of Specialization offered at the School. With the approval of their Supervisor, students may choose to enrol for a coursework module for non-degree purposes in order to strengthen their own personal development. With permission from the School, students may apply the content and approach of other disciplines to their thesis project, provided these are deemed of direct relevance to Public Health.

The Master Of Public Health consists of:

  • six 15 credit Core (compulsory modules),
  • two 15 credit Electives
  • and a 60 credit Mini-thesis.


Population Health and Development: A Primary Health Care Approach II (SPH855)

This module focuses on the determinants of health in Africa and the burden and pattern of disease across the continent. Issues related to causation, health inequity and the relationship between health and development are discussed in terms of population health and planning Public Health interventions.

The module introduces the Comprehensive Primary Health Care approach which has been designed to address the implications of the underlying determinants of health. In addition, the module explores key issues to be considered in relation to health policy, finances and human resources when establishing a Comprehensive PHC (CPHC) approach to health and health care at district level.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Blended learning plus Short Course at Summer School.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Measuring Health & Disease II (SPH856)

This module aims to enhance the measurement skills essential for effective Public Health practice. It examines several key concepts, methods and the role of Epidemiology in Public Health. It provides a variety of tools for the assessment and interpretation of health problems. It is intended to enable professionals working in the health sector to bring a critical and analytical insight into Public Health decision-making.

The module consists of six units divided into 4-7 study sessions, one for each topic. The course explores the nature of epidemiological health information, the natural history of disease, Epi Info, causation, study design, infectious diseases, outbreaks, screening and surveillance, the interpretation of data, representation of health information and reporting on an epidemiological event.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Blended learning, online learning and a Summer School Short Course in Semester 1. This is a complex module if you do not have prior experience in biostatistics or the use of an analytical computer package such as Epi Info.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments including an epidemiological report based on a raw data set provided by your lecturers. You will be required to use the computer Programme, Epi Info, to analyse and interpret this data set.

Management Strategies for the Public Health Services II (SPH857)

This module was developed in recognition of the fact that health professionals often hold significant management responsibilities, often without even being called a manager. The module locates management as a key role in relation to health systems strengthening and places emphasis on reflecting on your own management practices and how to improve these.

Important themes in this module are managing by leading, and organisational change as the ongoing context in which managers are  required to lead. The teaching focus aims to help you understand your own role as a leader and manager in the context of the public health system, to strengthen your capacity to analyse everyday management and service delivery problems, and to offer guided opportunities to plan improvements which address such problems. Aspects of managing relationships with people are included as well as an appreciation of systems requirements for managing information, finances and other resources to achieve better  health.

PRESCRIBED TEXT: Mintzberg, H. (2011). Managing. San Francisco: BK Publishers. Cost: approx R220 via Amazon Books (to be purchased online). MODE OF DELIVERY: Blended learning, online learning and the Short Winter School Course in Semester 2.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Health Promotion for Public Health II (SPH859)

This module aims to provide the learner with a theoretical understanding of Health Promotion as well as some practical skills in planning and implementing effective and appropriate Health Promotion Programmes and activities.

The sessions focus on interrogating the main theories of Health Promotion and their application in an underdeveloped country context, outlining the approaches commonly taken in successful Health Promotion Programmes from international examples, and providing the learner with some tools for planning, managing and evaluating district or regional multi-sectoral Programmes. A district-based Programme development case study is used as a teaching tool within the module.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Blended learning and the Summer School short course in Semester 1. The course is offered through a Module Guide, Readings and Additional Resources.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Qualitative Research Methods (SPH860)

This module aims to develop an understanding of the philosophical and methodological foundations of qualitative approaches to research; more importantly, it aims to develop the capacity to practise and apply its methods to a selected research problem. By the end of the module, students should have sufficient competency and understanding of the approach to develop a qualitative research protocol and after approval, to implement a study addressing a Public Health problem of their choice.

PREREQUISITE: Students are required to take this module after completing the

Public Health Research module.

By the end of this module students should be able to:

  • Present a rationale for choosing a qualitative research for a research problem in terms of the theoretical (philosophical) underpinnings of qualitative
  • Demonstrate awareness of the kinds of problems or questions bestaddressed by qualitative
  • Engage in flexible (qualitative) research design showing an understanding of the stages of design, characteristics, purpose and application of qualitative research This will include the following outcomes:
    • Describe a research problem and its Public Health context;
    • Develop a study aim and objectives;
    • Identify the information and the data sources which will be required to address this
    • Develop tools for collecting data from these
    • Select and provide a rationale for data collection techniques
    • Practice three data collection
  • Propose a data collection sample and provide a rationale for
  • Propose the intended process of analysis, provide a rationale for these choices and practice the
  • Describe the purpose and process of different approaches to qualitative
  • Present a logically argued plan for ensuring rigour of the
  • Describe and use ethical procedures in qualitative
  • Analyse and discuss examples of selected qualitative approaches and critique their design and
  • Present a logically argued plan for ensuring rigour in your

PRESCRIBED TEXT: Colin Robson. Real World Research, (2016). John Wiley and Co.

MODE OF DELIVERY: Blended learning and short course at Summer school in Semester 1.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Public Health Research (SPH862)

This module expands your knowledge on the types and design of quantitative research studies including data collection and data management using basic statistics, and measures of association, statistical testing, and sample size and power. The student will get an understanding of the ethical concepts in research with human subjects. The student will be given the opportunity to apply the concepts of validity, reliability and precision for quantitative study design. The student will also be given the opportunity to apply their knowledge in writing a research proposal or report.

At the end of this module students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the ethical principles for conducting research with human
  • Distinguish between the designs of the most common types of quantitative research
  • Define and identify association, causation, bias and confounding within the context of quantitative
  • Apply concepts of validity, reliability and precision within the context of quantitative
  • Apply basic data collection, data management, data handling and project management for quantitative
  • Analyse and interpret health data using basic biostatistics and statistical computing
  • Define and apply the basic elements of a research proposal and research

PRESCRIBED TEXT: Designing and Conducting Health Systems Research Projects Volume I: Proposal Development and Fieldwork – Corlien M. Varkevisser, Indra Pathmanathan & Ann Brownlee (available online).

MODE OF DELIVERY: Summer School short course in Semester 1 as well as Blended learning.

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.


Semester one
Monitoring and Evaluation in Health and Development Programmes (SPH866)

PRE-REQUISITE MODULE: Take Measuring Health and Disease II prior to, or concurrent with this module.

This module provides the opportunity to develop an understanding of key evaluation concepts and issues and to expand your knowledge of evaluation approaches and methods. In particular, it will focus on the key complexities inherent in the monitoring and evaluation of programmes based on Primary Health Care and Health Promotion principles. Students will be involved in critically appraising evaluations and will design a monitoring or evaluation Programme relevant to their area of interest.

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester one

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Semester two
Epidemiology and Control of Chronic (Non-Communicable) Diseases (NCDs) (SPH867)

This course aims to develop an integrated, Public Health approach to understanding and addressing chronic diseases, and to create a shift in approach from disease specific/biomedical models to integrated approaches. The course makes use of key concepts and principles of epidemiology to develop a comprehensive view of the conditions dealt with, with an emphasis on developing and refining the practical skills required for decision making and programme development.

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Analyse risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) both locally and
  • Critically analyse barriers to the implementation of global strategies for the prevention and control of CNCDs in order to develop local preventive
  • Analyse the resources and skills required at local level in order to implement appropriate interventions
  • Create locally appropriate strategies to address the risk factors using the principles of Health Promotion
  • Create an evaluation plan in order to assess the effectiveness of an intervention

Diseases or conditions to be covered may include obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester 2

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Public Health Nutritional Policy and Planning (SPH870)

This course provides a general overview of the nutrition situation in the world as well as a historical overview of nutrition programmes. It explores some of the technical factors which contribute to successful nutrition programmes and introduces a range of competencies required to implement successful programmes.

By the end of this module students should be able to:

  • Give an overview of the nutrition situation in the world including factors affecting nutrition as well as the impact of nutrition on health, disease and development
  • Critically assess the appropriateness of nutrition and related interventions or programmes to address a given nutrition
  • Identify key factors contributing to success or failure of interventions or programmes to address nutrition
  • Describe socio-political factors related to the success of interventions or programmes to address nutrition problems
  • Outline approaches to and impact of community participation in interventions or programmes to address nutrition problems
  • Design an appropriate nutrition communication strategy for interventions or programmes to address nutrition
  • Plan and implement appropriate interventions or programmes to address nutrition problems
  • Monitor and evaluate interventions or programmes to address nutrition problems

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester 2

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Please note that Nutrition modules cost a little more than the rest of SOPH’s modules: see Section 6.3.

Globalisation and Health (SPH868)

This course covering a critical Public Health topic, illustrates the impact of globalization on population health. Although, globalization comes with benefits such as access to information, collaborative research and mobilization, other manifestations of it in the Public Health context include immigration, travel and flow of infectious diseases, increasing income inequality and their impact on social determinants of health. This module makes  use of key concepts to provide the crucial understanding of the opportunities that globalization potentially holds for improving the health of all as well as the threats it presents to global health.

This course is interesting and critical for Public Health students because:

  • It encourages students to think about the benefits of globalization as well as its negative effects on Public Health in different parts of the
  • It explores the complex relationships between health and health care and the social, cultural, economic and political causes of disparities in health and health care between and within countries, with a focus on how global factors contribute to
  • It guides students in making critical judgments on who benefits the most from globalization and how the costs of globalization can be shared in a fairer
  • It also raises interesting questions around the relationship between globalization and climate
  • It shows how globalization affects health policies, health systems, which in turn affect health care services for

The module uses multimedia elements and a case-based approach to consolidate the learning. Students will be presented by detailed case studies from around the world, one on the Treatment Action Campaign and another on child obesity. Students are encouraged to discuss interventions and policies and their importance in addressing social determinants of health and in the consequences of globalization.

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester 2

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments

Pharmaceutical Policy and Management (SPH875)

This new module, Pharmaceutical Policy and Management introduces students to pharmaceutical policy and management issues within the health systems framework and will be an additional elective in the MPH within the Pharmaceutical Public Health group, which provides students with an interest in this area a degree of specialisation.

By the end of the this module students should be able to:

  • Identify the key role that pharmaceuticals play in health systems
  • Critically explore and analyse how access to and rational use of pharmaceuticals play a key function in health systems
  • Identify how the health and pharmaceutical policy process are linked together at different levels of the health system
  • Demonstrate how policies can be developed and incorporated into management systems to improve access and use of medicines
  • Analyse existing policy instruments that have been used to manage the delivery of pharmaceutical systems
  • Prepare a policy brief and critically review an existing policy document
  • Develop an implementation plan for a new policy that would include monitoring and evaluation
  • Identify the importance of community involvement in policy development, health promotion and in the design and implementation of
  • Evaluate the particular pharmaceutical policy needs for medicines with particular characteristics such as vaccines or controlled substances
  • Analyse points in the pharmaceutical supply and use chain that are particularly vulnerable to corruption and suggest policy and managerial approaches to address these

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester 2

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments with additional tasks and exercises

Rational Medicines Use (SPH873)

This module will engage students from various professional and national backgrounds in the importance of the rational medicines use concept. It will introduce a range of well tested and practical tools to investigate medicines use problems and key strategies to promote rational medicine use.

By the end of the course participants will be able to:

  • Advocate for rational medicine use and its importance within health systems;
  • Identify and analyse the application of quantitative methods to identify edicine use problems;
  • Evaluate qualitative methods and their application to investigate medicine use and prescribing behaviour;
  • Identify and analyse the importance of determining efficacy, safety, effectiveness and cost effectiveness of medicines in decision making;
  • Evaluate the importance of clinical evidence in decision making and formulary anagement;
  • Critically evaluate the principles of the anti-microbial resistance concept and the ole of rational medicine use in its prevention;
  • Critically review the role of Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committees (PTCs) in all of the

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester 2

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments with additional tasks and exercises

Micronutrient Malnutrition (SPH864 )

This module includes an overview of vitamins and minerals relevant to Public Health in South Africa. There is an in-depth discussion of interventions to address micronutrient malnutrition and an overview of Programme planning and monitoring and evaluation of interventions.

By the end of the module, you are expected to demonstrate understanding of:

  • The classification, characteristics, functions, digestion, absorption, metabolism, dietary sources and dietary allowances for the micronutrients;
  • The sensitivity of diagnostic measures;
  • Interventions appropriate to address micronutrient malnutrition;
  • The planning process;
  • Monitoring and evaluation of interventions to address micronutrient

You are expected to demonstrate skills in:

  • Planning appropriate interventions to address specific micronutrient

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester 2

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

Applied Health Economics for Community Health Systems (SPH880)

There is a recent acknowledgment within the field on the application of methods of health economics to the appraisal of public health interventions (PHIs)-especially the recognition that the ‘public’ health context is a complex system and thus economic evaluations of PHIs are complex in nature. In thinking about public health, we need to carefully consider the inter-generational, environmental and economic equity and inequalities.  The aim of this module is to introduce students to the application of economic thinking and economic techniques (including economic evaluation), which are increasingly used in formulating and analysing health policy. This module aims to empower public health professionals with health economics and financing knowledge to strengthen and sustain health systems, with a particular focus on community health systems in low-and middle- income countries (LMICs).

On completion of this module students should be able to:
  • Analyse budget allocations and health financing and their implications for community health systems
  • Discuss the strengths as well as limitations of how resources (e.g. financial and HR) for health are allocated in LMICs (efficiency gains and demonstrating value for money)
  • Apply the economic principles of community health systems for effective service utilisation
  • Apply the principles of the economic evaluation (cost-effectiveness analysis) of public health interventions in aiding decision making around resource allocation
  • Conduct a cost analysis or cost-effectiveness analysis or cost-utility analysis
  • Critique the health economics guidance on evaluating complex public health interventions
  • Assess the economic impact of health technology in the context of public health interventions
  • Apply the methodology and process of synthesizing evidence for economic evaluations of public health interventions.

MODE OF DELIVERY: E-learning in Semester 2

ASSESSMENT: Two assignments.

  1. An Honours degree, Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health or equivalent at NQF Level 8 in any relevant discipline. This is required for both Option 1 & 2.
  2. For Option 1 (Coursework & Mini Thesis), a minimum of five years working in the health, social development or related sectors, with relevant experience in implementing policy or planning and managing health, development and/or related sector services.
  3. For Option 2 (Full Thesis), a minimum of three years of significant research or monitoring and evaluation experience.
  4. For those students who do not have credit for a tertiary level course in disease pathogenesis, disease measurement or disease control, they are required to take School’s module, Introducing Public Health: its Basis and Scope from the PG Diploma in Public Health programme, and complete a task before or during their first semester in Year 1 of their studies.
Considering the School of Public Health, UWC as a place of learning

Before embarking on an application we suggest that you find out a bit more about the School and consider whether there is a congruency between the Schools’ vision and orientation towards public health and your own capacity building needs in the public health field.  We suggest you take a look at our latest biennial report and the FAQs related to our MPH programme to provide you with this orientation

The Application Process
  • The first step you need to take is to apply online through the UWC website: will open on the 1st of June and they will close on Thursday 30 September. Please take note of the application number that you will receive from UWC once you have made this initial application to the University.
  • Once you have made this online application through the UWC website, you will receive an acknowledgement from Ms Janine Kader (SOPH). She will then provide you with a link to the SOPH online application form and the SOPH application task which we require all applicants to complete.
  • Applicants should start the UWC (general) and SOPH (specific) online application process as early as possible in order to have enough time to be able to complete the necessary application forms, the application task and to gather all the necessary and certified documentation together (including leaving time to apply for SAQA clearance certification for all non-South African qualifications).
  • Your application to the University of the Western Cape (general application) and your application to the School of Public Health (specific application & task), must be completed on or before the 30 September. This includes the uploading of all relevant documentation onto both the UWC and SOPH online application sites. Applications received after the closing date will not be considered.
  • Please do not email any of the required documentation to the SOPH – all applications have to be completed and uploaded through the UWC and the SOPH online application platforms.