Strengthening post-graduate educational capacity for health policy and systems research and analysis: the strategy of the Consortium for Health Policy and Systems Analysis in Africa

Ermin Erasmus, Uta Lehmann, Irene Akua Agyepong, John Alwar, Don de Savigny, Peter Kamuzora, Tolib Mirzoev, Nonhlanhla Nxumalo, Göran Tomson, Benjamin Uzochukwu, Lucy Gilson
Health Research Policy and Systems 2016 April 12, 14: 29

BACKGROUND: The last 5-10 years have seen significant international momentum build around the field of health policy and systems research and analysis (HPSR + A). Strengthening post-graduate teaching is seen as central to the further development of this field in low- and middle-income countries. However, thus far, there has been little reflection on and documentation of what is taught in this field, how teaching is carried out, educators' challenges and what future teaching might look like.

METHODS: Contributing to such reflection and documentation, this paper reports on a situation analysis and inventory of HPSR + A post-graduate teaching conducted among the 11 African and European partners of the Consortium for Health Policy and Systems Analysis in Africa (CHEPSAA), a capacity development collaboration. A first questionnaire completed by the partners collected information on organisational teaching contexts, while a second collected information on 104 individual courses (more in-depth information was subsequently collected on 17 of the courses). The questionnaires yielded a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, which were analysed through counts, cross-tabulations, and the inductive grouping of material into themes. In addition, this paper draws information from internal reports on CHEPSAA's activities, as well as its external evaluation.

RESULTS: The analysis highlighted the fluid boundaries of HPSR + A and the range and variability of the courses addressing the field, the important, though not exclusive, role of schools of public health in teaching relevant material, large variations in the time investments required to complete courses, the diversity of student target audiences, the limited availability of distance and non-classroom learning activities, and the continued importance of old-fashioned teaching styles and activities.

CONCLUSIONS: This paper argues that in order to improve post-graduate teaching and continue to build the field of HPSR + A, key questions need to be addressed around educational practice issues such as the time allocated for HPSR + A courses, teaching activities, and assessments, whether HPSR + A should be taught as a cross-cutting theme in post-graduate degrees or an area of specialisation, and the organisation of teaching given the multi-disciplinary nature of the field. It ends by describing some of CHEPSAA's key post-graduate teaching development activities and how these activities have addressed the key questions.

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