The overall objective of the health sector policy in Uganda is “to reduce mortality, morbidity, and fertility and the disparities therein…” (Uganda, National Health Policy, 2005). However, promotion, improvement and maintenance of the health of the people of Uganda equitably, to the optimum level possible with the resources available remains a big challenge of the Health System in Uganda and the neighbouring region as a whole. The national government’s commitment to decentralisation and the Ministry of Health’s National Health Policy (NHP) and Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP) remains to address this challenge, as local authorities (districts and municipalities) are guided to develop their own health plans.
In support of these objectives, Makerere University through the School of Public Health (MAKSPH), in collaboration with a number of districts, and the Ministry of Health (MOH) have been implementing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree programme, popularly referred to as the Uganda Public Health School without Walls (PHSWOW) since October 1994. The philosophy of the programme is to develop high quality and sustainable training strategies, which produce public health leaders and workers who are competent to address public health challenges at the national, district and community levels in Uganda and beyond. The programme implementation started with initial funding from the Rockefeller Foundation with subsequent additional support from UNFPA, the Italian Government and WHO. It is now self-supporting mainly from student tuition fees. Students have the responsibility to meet their own financial obligations including tuition fees, scholastic materials, transport and living costs.
Since the start of this training program in 1994, the MPH program has been offering a total of 21 courses, all of which the trainee had to take. This arrangement did not cater for the desire by trainees who may want a certain level of specialization within the MPH training, so as to allow for the trainees to pursue training with focus in their areas of interest. The curriculum has now been revised to provide for this need. Trainees will now take Core Courses during Year 1, and then depending on the trainee’s area of interest, they will elect to take courses in one of the four tracks of specialization in Year 2, each track specializing in a specific area of public health.