Global health 2018 semester one review

Reading time: 5 mins.

Four months have passed and semester one is complete. I thought it would be a good time to give an overview of the modules we’ve had. Every year following feedback, courses are altered to improve them. However, this does mean, what is better for one cohort may not be better for the next and it also means we sadly won’t see the changes we asked for.

Global Health – an introduction

This module is a 5 week introductory course on all things Global Health. It takes you right through from academic writing, indicators you should know such as DALY’s to infant mortality, to what the Sustainable Development Goals are. It is the bare minimum anyone working in the field would be expected to know. The course culminates in a written exam.

This was also the time to get to know your classmates whilst getting settled in to Stockholm living before November arrives with its challenge of darkness.

Research methodology

This to date has been the most challenging module for the majority of the class. I’m not sure whether we know what we can put it down to. Was it the teaching methodology or an individual’s previous exposure to maths, statistics or epidemiology? What is known for sure is that this is an indication that either a prerequisite for a certain level of maths is needed or there should be extra, optional classes for those who through no fault of their own have not needed to work directly with biostatistics and thus are less comfortable with the subject.

It is a bit of a slog, but the course lead somehow makes light work of it all. Sadly, this was not enough when it came to the exam at the end.

Health policy, management and economics

Reaching this module makes you feel like you’re back doing what you originally set out to do when joining this Master’s. Like with all the modules they are introductions to the theories and concepts (hopefully) being applied by international organisations and governments. You’re really just scratching the surface. It’s fascinating to see how stakeholders and all the different actors vie and jostle for their agendas to be prioritised.

Of course, no health policy course would be complete without a stroll through the history of the main healthcare system models: Bismarck, Beveridge, National Health Insurance and Out-of-Pocket.

All in all, I would say this module was well worth the wait. It was however peppered with so much group work, it was almost hard to see the wood for the trees, but when it came to the final “take home exam”*, it was evident that it was well structured equipping students with the tools to begin their own in-depth analysis of a healthcare system.

Infectious diseases – a challenge to global health

My feelings towards this course might change once I receive my exam results but as it stands, this is one of the few courses where enough time has been allocated for group work and the creation of a poster. Bravo!

For those in the class without a medical or allied degree, this course was challenging at times. The lecturers tended to be doctors, as such they sometimes focused too much on the pathology and not so much on the global health relevance of the disease and proposed solutions. Don’t worry, for those of you lucky enough to sit were I did next year, feedback has been given.

That being said and done, there were some stand out seminars that managed to provide the disease highlights and why they were linked to poverty and what could be done about them.

This semester then culminated with a week filled with deadlines and an exam, less than a week before Christmas!

The examiner’s one request was that we didn’t ruin her Christmas by writing long answers. “Keep it short”, she repeatedly wrote. Hopefully, everyone read the exam instructions.

Sourcing a thesis project

This is a real scramble. As soon as you arrive, start looking for a prospective supervisor. The promise of the list with projects early on, is earnest and no doubt genuine but it’s released towards the end of October. The range of topics is unpredictable and projects are published in dribs and drabs. The advantage is that everyone will end up with a project by mid-December just in time to submit some sort of project outline before Christmas.

Light bulb in a thought bubble

You’ve probably gathered that each module ends with an exam or individual assignment. A time-tested way of summarising and assessing learning. However, the mix of group work, written assessments and exams gives a good spread across different learning styles. The emphasis remains on learning for the future and not for the sake of exams.

So far, I can write that anyone from a medical profession or with field experience will find that their background stands them in very good stead for this MSc.

*Take home exam: a new concept I’ve been introduced to. I guess this is what happens in a society with values largely based on trust. You’re entrusted with the responsibility of working on an assignment in the comfort of your own home, without the input of anyone else – the only exam condition you need to adhere to. Oh, and of course no plagiarism!

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