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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 10, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 29
SPH launches program to improve public health training in Africa

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will lead a five-year initiative to strengthen the capacity of public health schools in East Africa. Work will begin initially with Makerere University in Uganda and Muhimbili College of Health Sciences in Tanzania. The goal of the initiative is to create and sustain a network of trained public health professionals to provide leadership to the entire region. Initial funding for programs comes from a $2 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development through Higher Education for Development.

"Africa faces many public health challenges, from AIDS to malaria to poor nutrition. As African nations receive more global assistance, including the $9 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and $1.2 billion from the President's Malaria Initiative, there is a critical need for trained personnel who can provide leadership and develop innovative national policy," said Gilbert Burnham, director of the initiative and professor of international health at the Bloomberg School. "Africa has a shortage of public health personnel who can coordinate and implement these projects, monitor their progress and carry out the research needed to make them more effective."

Uganda and Tanzania, he said, have established excellent public health schools. "Our aim is to strengthen their capabilities for developing faculty and training students, not only in the two countries but regionally as well," he said. "The increasing convergence of administrative structures among the East African states offers an unprecedented opportunity to develop common regional approaches toward public health leadership and training approaches."

As part of the initiative, the Bloomberg School and partners from the Tulane University School of Public Health and the George Washington University School of Public Policy and Public Administration will help develop a common leadership curriculum for the African public health schools. Building a public health network among faculty, students, practitioners and policy-makers will help develop a strong commitment to the public health agenda through the East Africa region, Burnham said. To keep skills current and to build leadership capacities, the initiative will focus on short training courses for midand senior-level health managers.

In addition to traditional classroom courses, curriculum will be available online, as will free course materials through the Bloomberg School's Open- CourseWare site. The Internet will also be a key component for networking schools of public health in Africa to discuss common issues and exchange experiences and ideas between faculties and students.

To improve teaching capacities, Johns Hopkins and Tulane will also offer academic development programs for public health faculty at Makerere University and Muhimbili College of Health Sciences.

"The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has worked in partnership with the Ugandan and Tanzanian public health schools from their earliest days," Burnham said. "This now is an exciting new opportunity to help the two schools build a public health leadership capacity, not only to help the people of the two countries but in the neighboring countries of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Eritrea."


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