Future You podcast transcript

Master of Public Health (with the University of Liverpool)

November, 2022

On this episode of Future You, we speak to Jo Mainwaring and Steve Clayton about the online Masters course on public health at the University of Liverpool


In order of first appearance:

  • Henry Godfrey-Evans - editorial assistant, Prospects
  • Joanne Mainwaring - lecturer at the University of Liverpool
  • Stephen Clayton - lecturer at the University of Liverpool


Henry Godfrey-Evans: Public health involves taking a broad view of society to improve wellbeing and prevent illness. Constantly changing health concerns means those with the right knowledge and expertise are in demand. Find out how an online Masters course is equipping students with the global perspectives to meet this demand.

Hello, and welcome to future you the podcast brought to you by Graduate Careers experts prospects, we're here to help with your career goals. My name is Henry Godfrey-Evans and in this episode, I speak to John Mannering and Steve Clayton, who are lectures on the Master of Public Health course at the University of Liverpool. They talk to us about what students would suit their course, what's involved, and how gaining a public health postgraduate qualification can help your career prospects. So would you both like to introduce yourselves?

Joanne Mainwaring: Okay. Hello. My name is Jo Mainwaring. And it's lovely to speak to you today. I'm the programme director for the online Master of Public Health in partnership with Liverpool University. And my background is as a dietitian, and I came to public health through working clinically, as a dietitian, and then realising that, actually, it's better to begin to prevent some of these conditions like obesity, dental decay, and so on and so forth at an earlier stage, and that's really what public health can deliver. I've been working on the programme for over 10 years and been leading it for the last year.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: Very nice. And yourself, Steve?

Stephen Clayton: Hi, my name is Steve Clayton. I am a lecturer in Public Health at the University of Liverpool. And I've been involved in the online programmes since around 2010, I think. But currently, I'm in the role of Acting Director of Studies for the online master's in public health. My own background is quite varied. And I came to work in public health in 2006. And so I've got a mostly research background in public health and I research Public Health from a social science background, I'm particularly interested in the impact of the social causes of health inequalities. And that's something that's very important part of our programme as well.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: Okay, so would you like to talk us through the Master of Public Health course, Jo?

Joanne Mainwaring: Yes, certainly. So public health principles are about looking to manage health and wellbeing at a community and population level, rather than at the individual level. We've become more familiar with public health due to the COVID pandemic. And in addition to this, it's key to delivering health improvement at a national and global scale. For example, the delivery of the 2030 sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations. And these cover everything from overcoming hunger and poverty, to narrowing inequalities in health, and achieving good health and wellbeing for all. Public health is described as a science and an art. There are some hard science involved in the programmes such as epidemiology, but also public health practitioners need to be somewhat creative, innovative and flexible. When designing interventions and working with communities in group and I think the Master in Public Health can help you to begin to specialise in the public health field, or progress further in the field. It will certainly help you stand out from the crowd and achieve your ambitions.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: Why was the course introduced Steve?

Stephen Clayton: Originally, the course was introduced back in the early 2000s. And it was mainly to do with the accessibility of areas of health education globally. It also builds on our campus programme, we have a campus master's in public health, which is run since the early 1990s. And has a very good reputation. And it's used as the training platform for the public health consultants who operate on a national basis and our campus programme trains most of the northwestern trainees, but we thought that it will be it will make it much more accessible for people in different parts of the world if we could provide this same quality of training and education to people around the globe. And that's why we decided to start the online programme.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: Great and then what type of student do you think would suit this course Jo?

Joanne Mainwaring: I think like me, students might come from a clinical background and be thinking about progressing their role within public health either within their organisation or moving to a different organisation. And I think students can come from a wide variety of medical or allied health professional or nursing backgrounds or pharmacy backgrounds, any sort of health discipline lends itself to a public health role. And normally, students would have a first degree in a medical or health science subject or in public health itself and be looking to specialise further.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: So how could the Liverpool MPH help students progress their career, Steve?

Stephen Clayton: So the course is designed for, as Jo said, for existing professionals, either already working in public health or areas connected to public health, or who would like to move from a more clinical post into a public health post. The course is designed so that students build their skills over the three years of the course. And they build their skills around both public health knowledge and practice, and also research skills. There are also elements of leadership and management in the programme, so that by the end of the three-year programme, all of the students should be able to move on in their careers and to aim towards taking up posting higher managerial or leadership roles within public health.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: Specifically Jo then, what does the MPH teach you?

Joanne Mainwaring: I think, broadly speaking, it teaches you how to move from a targeted approach to health to a new sphere, where community and population health deliver the prevention and management of health and disease. So public health really aims to tackle the wider determinants of health. And by so doing create a health-for-all approach, it's really rewarding to see how public health measures benefit communities and local populations. The students that we have on the course are really passionate about making a difference to their community or their workplace. And the course is really diverse. It covers a wide range of knowledge, skills, and even encourages students to change some of their attitudes. And so students have to be ready to be challenged and take onboard new ideas and ways of working and thinking.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: Okay, so with it managing to be an online course somehow, what does that involve?

Joanne Mainwaring: We have sort of a set pattern to the delivery of the course, altogether, there are nine different classes or modules that students take. And then at the end of the programme, there is an applied research opportunity, a dissertation. And in each of the classes , as I say, there is sort of a structured way we organise those. So it begins with the students being presented with online lectures. So these are created by subject experts. And they deliver the content of that class in an interesting and interactive way. So there's some online lectures to watch and interact with, there's videos to watch and mini quizzes within them. And then after students have watched those online lectures, and they enter what we call a collaboration. And so here, they answer some key questions related to the content and its application. And they answer these questions in a group with the other students. This allows students to think about how the content applies to their own situation or community, but also read about how it might apply to the other students in their different communities around the world. The classes are all facilitated by a lecturer who's an expert in the field, and they can bring their own expertise and help the students within the class. Generally, class sizes are approximately 20 students. And as we've mentioned, there's lots of different professions within that student group. And the students are spread across the globe. So it gives a fantastic opportunity to understand Public Health from a global perspective.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: What kind of practical learning is involved in the course Steve?

Stephen Clayton: There's a range of aspects of practical learning in the course, one of the design parameters of the course is that of authentic assessment which is part of the Liverpool curriculum framework. What we mean by this is that all the assessed work should reflect the professional needs of the MPH students. But as they go through the programme, there's a range of things, there's a set of practical research skills that they will learn in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and epidemiology. They'll also develop their teamwork and leadership skills as they go through the top modules. And there's always opportunities for students to lead things like group work. There are obviously practical health improvement skills that they will learn. And there are opportunities outside of just the modules themselves.

So there are opportunities for students to become programme representatives to help provide feedback from the programme to the programme leadership. But the key thing is that they have an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills that they develop on the programme, to their own practice. And we've had students in the past tell us quite regularly that they've learned something in a class one day, and they're using it in their professional lives the next day. There are also things like evaluation skills and techniques, planning skills and techniques, things like health needs assessments that they will do, and their final dissertation allows them to develop a practical research project. Normally, that reflects some of their professional concerns, and to do this research within their own communities. And we've got a range of examples of research that students have done, going from exploring dietary diversity in Kenya to bedbugs in New York.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: So final question, Steve, people listening who feel like they might be interested in the course, what advice do you have for them?

Stephen Clayton: I think, first of all, come and see the materials online that we've got that explains what the course is about. Take a look at the entry criteria and that sort of thing. Think about how well you fit against the entry criteria. And if you think actually, I need to develop a few things first, then think about opportunities for work or voluntary experience or engaging with key agencies in the public health arena. Also, I think one of the key things that students potential students need to think about with this is - this is a very different approach to learning the maybe they've been used to within face to face learning. So they need to think about - how well does this suit me? And how well will it fit in with my current situation, both my working life and my family and social life, there is quite an intensity to this course, which makes it very rewarding. But students need to think about how well they'll be able to fit the course into their own lives. And then think about - what is it I want this course for? I believe, this course is very useful to a wide range of people, not just people who are moving from clinical positions, but people like myself, who have a background in social science. So think about all those different sorts of things. And then come and talk to us. Use the contact details that we have to talk to the recruitment team. They'll talk you through the programme, and then we hope to see you on the programme in the future.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: All right, great. Well, thank you both for coming on.

Stephen Clayton: Thank you.

Henry Godfrey-Evans: Thanks to Jo and Steve for that. If you want to find out more then the link to the course details can be found in the episode description. Don't forget, to search for other postgraduate courses, head to prospects.ac.uk where you can also find plenty more advice on making the most of further study. Until next time, it's goodbye.

Note on transcripts

These transcripts are produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.

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