Ethiopia: New Postgraduate Diploma to Improve Public Health Sector (April 2007)

The lack of adequately trained health personnel has negatively affected the entire Ethiopian public health sector in all areas of activity, but most seriously in terms of patient treatment and care.

In February 2006, the Postgraduate Diploma/Master of Science (MSc) in Health Monitoring and Evaluation was launched at Jimma University in Ethiopia - the first course of its kind on the African continent. The new program, created at the request of the Ethiopian Minister of Health, was supported by PEPFAR and allows students to work towards either a one-year postgraduate diploma or a two-year Master of Science degree.

The principal objective of the course is to create a new cadre of health professionals with skills in improving health care management. This will help improve the quality of care, promote health sector development, and facilitate evidence-based decision making in Ethiopia's public health care sector.

The philosophy of the graduate course conforms to the Jimma University model of combining community, team, and research-based training. The course consists of three two-month blocks of courses, with two months in between each course block, during which time students are placed in an internship. The first group of 31 students, who were recruited from the public health sector, are completing their first year of studies. As of December 2006, Jimma University had received 80 applications for next year's cohort.

This program partners Jimma University with the National School of Public Health in Brazil and a PEPFAR partner university in the United States. The program will greatly enhance monitoring and evaluation capacity in Ethiopian health institutions, and also will help to alleviate the current lack of trained staff, which constantly threatens to undermine HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care efforts.

This program serves as a model and will be replicated in other universities, including seven in Ethiopia and others throughout Africa. Jimma University also hopes to institute new distance learning programs.

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