Case study

Introducing the Master of Public Health — University of Liverpool

Constantly changing health concerns means those with the right knowledge and expertise are needed. Find out how an online Masters course is equipping students with the global perspectives to meet this demand

The Master of Public Health (MPH) is run by the University of Liverpool in conjunction with Kaplan Open Learning. Programme director Joanne Mainwaring and director of studies Dr Stephen Clayton talk us through what's involved with the course and the students it would suit.

What is public health?

Public health is about promoting and securing good health and wellbeing for all. It achieves this by focusing on populations rather than health at an individual level. A population focus can allow us to understand and work on how the wider determinants of health shape all our health and wellbeing.

Determinants of health vary from individual behaviours, such as handwashing practices or alcohol consumption, to overarching factors driven by government policies, such as clean air zones, or economic factors such as levels of poverty and deprivation.

These determinants may promote health and wellbeing or may have negative impacts, and these are not evenly distributed and so generate health inequalities. They are not fixed, however, and a key goal of public health is to change policy and practice to ensure the promotion of health and wellbeing for all.

Dealing with the wider determinants of health requires public health practitioners to develop knowledge and skills across a range of disciplines and practices. For instance, this may require knowledge of epidemiology to map and analyse the shifting patterns of health across populations. In other cases, more creative and innovative approaches are required - for example, thinking of ways to engage with a community or population and then having flexibility and understanding when it comes to working with these groups.

Public health practitioners may draw upon medical and pharmaceutical interventions, health protection measures and psychological approaches to behaviour change. They may need to understand and influence a range of local, national and international policies that affect health and wellbeing. In some situations, as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, a combination of all of these is needed.

What type of students would suit this course?

The depth and breadth of public health means that this course suits a variety of students. It is an entry requirement to have had some experience in public health, but this may be drawn from voluntary or work-based learning. The course suits those in the more obvious health professions, such doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals (e.g. physiotherapists, dietitians or occupational therapists), but it also includes students whose backgrounds provide an understanding of the wider determinants of health, from local authority, NGO (non-governmental organisation), or charity workers, through economists, geographers and other social scientists.

Public health requires looking at health and health problems from a different lens and therefore this course suits students looking for a new challenge and who are open to learning new things.

Could you tell us more about the global perspective of the course?

As the course is online, we attract and accept students from all around the world, allowing them to meet and learn alongside other like-minded professionals. Students are encouraged to share their own experiences and discuss these within the group. This enables the development of a global perspective on public health and students learn how the same public health issues may have very different impacts depending on the particular national, social, economic, and cultural context.  

In addition to the curriculum and the collaborations built into our model of online learning and teaching drawing out this global perspective, students also build informal online networks and friendships that benefit their professional interests and career.

How does the Liverpool MPH help students and graduates progress their careers?

The MPH can help those interested in public health gain the knowledge, skills and experience to enter this career or to take the next step up the career ladder. The core modules will deliver learning that can be impactful immediately to ways of working and optional modules can deliver new insights to the field of public health that can illuminate new specialties in the field and broaden your professional scope of practice.

The course culminates in the opportunity to undertake an applied research project on a topic that is of interest to the student. This primary research opportunity can illuminate the students' skills as a researcher and open further opportunities in research disciplines. We are very proud that a number of students have taken up opportunities to disseminate their MPH research at national and international public health conferences, the most recent being the Lancet Public Health Science Conference in Glasgow 2022 where a Spanish student's research was presented as a poster presentation. 

Tell us about studying online…

Our programme employs an asynchronous model of online learning, which means that the learning materials and classrooms are available for you to engage with at any time and place to suit your needs. This means that it can work around family, work and travel commitments.

There is a pattern to how classes are delivered online. This often starts with students viewing online class materials and engaging with these by undertaking mini quizzes, polls or reflections. Reading materials are also provided and draw from textbooks, journal articles or reports.

Next, students engage in an asynchronous discussion forum where they are asked to respond to a key question related to the content covered. All students and the class lecturer participate in this forum and comment upon each other's ideas, learning from this interaction.

Students are also asked to complete an individual assignment or project and reflection on the content covered helping them put into practice their learning and receive feedback from this.

This cycle normally repeats on a bi-weekly basis for the duration of the module. We suggest that students allow approximately 15 to 20 hours a week to commit to their studies and successful time management is important to achieving the most from the programme.

Module lecturers host regular 'office hours' often via online conferencing facilities such as Zoom. In addition, the student support team is available by phone or email to provide both academic and pastoral support.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page