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Postgraduate programme in Public Health enters new era

Thursday 13 November 2014 9:10am

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Guests attend the launch of Otago’s restructured postgraduate Public Health programmes in Wellington.

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Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Crampton addresses the Wellington launch.

The Wellington campus recently celebrated University of Otago’s restructured postgraduate Public Health programmes with a colourful and well-attended launch event on the Capital’s waterfront.

Offering greater flexibility for students, and the opportunity for general as well as new discipline-specific qualifications, the new Public Health programmes are even more attractive, says convener of the Wellington campus Department of Public Health programme, Associate Professor Diana Sarfati.

Key stakeholders from the public health community and past and present students joined Wellington staff at Wellington’s stunning Wharewaka function centre on 30 October to mark the occasion, which was also attended by Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Crampton.

A number of staff at the function had been involved in the Wellington programme since it was launched as the Diploma of Public Health in 1992. In his address to the guests, Professor Crampton acknowledged the numerous people who had formed and re-formed the Diploma of Public Health over the years. He himself was a graduate of the programme, had spent a number of years teaching and convening one of the papers, and had also been Head of the Department of Public Health.

The medical focus of the Department of Public Health has changed over the years and is now a programme which embraces many disciplines - notably various social sciences - and warmly welcomes students from all sorts of backgrounds, Professor Crampton said.

“For all those involved with the programme, past and present, we all make numerous contributions through our research, teaching and service. But I daresay that for many of us there is no contribution more important than educating and influencing generations of students who in turn populate our government agencies, educational institutions, provider organisations and so on - people equipped with a systems-based approach, population health analytical skills, and a grounding in the disciplines, the thinking and the values which underpin public health. The consequences of our teaching are truly system-wide,” he said.

"Regardless of which aspect of public health interests you, it is a field in which you will really make a difference."
Current Head of Department Professor Richard Edwards and Associate Professor Sarfati also spoke. A Mihi was undertaken by Toa Waaka, Vice Chairman, Society of Maori Astronomy & Traditions Trust, and guests were entertained throughout by talented 4th Year medical students' music group Choreia in Situ, including a special performance of a song about healthy housing.

The latest new 15 point papers are taught in half semester terms enabling students to structure their study around family and work commitments.

There are 21 papers on offer, including several distance options, providing students the opportunity to put together a broad programme of study, or tailor their qualification to their interests.

Associate Professor Sarfati says the programmes continue to be offered from all three campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington and enquiries are welcome from those with an undergraduate degree in any discipline.

Students don’t have to be health professionals. Current students come from a variety of backgrounds including nursing, health promotion, nutrition, social work, physiotherapy and others interested in public health, she says.

“Public health is a diverse and vital area, encompassing all aspects of our lives. Students can develop skills in health promotion, epidemiology, health economics, environment and health, public health research, hauora Māori, how society affects health, and much more.”

Public health training opens up a number of career opportunities, she says.

“Regardless of which aspect of public health interests you, it is a field in which you will really make a difference.”

Enrolments for 2015 are now open, visit for further information. Courses begin at the end of February 2015.