by Ahmed Siyah

The module Risk, Vulnerability and Resilience served as a good introduction to the PG Certificate in Global Health course. It laid many basic concepts of disease causation and propagation. It brought home the message that health is not achieved only through the development of better medication and treatment regimens. A holistic approach to achieving health at a local or global level has to take into account the social and political aspects of our communities and individuals.

This module focused a lot on the role of epidemiology in the practice of health systems. The direct impact good epidemiological practice can be showcased by the work of John Snow in identifying the mode of transmission of Cholera at a time when the causative agent of the disease was yet to be identified. In London, during 1848-49 and 1853-54, Snow collected information on all the people who died of cholera and proved the association of the disease and the supplier of their drinking water. On the basis of this finding, improvements in water supply were put forth.

Epidemiology is not only useful in identifying the cause of the disease. It can be used at all phases of disease management including:

  1. Identifying cause of disease
  2. Studying the course and outcome of disease
  3. Studying the health status of populations
  4. Evaluating the efficacy of interventions

The module introduced many of the technical terms and indices used in this field such as incidence, prevalence, morbidity, mortality and demonstrated the importance of these factors in understanding the health situation of populations. Everything was explained using real world examples which made it easy to understand both how they are measures/calculated and their significance.

The basics paved the way to more complex and high level concepts such as health policy, planning and assessing efficiency of interventions. Though the coverage was at an introductory level it opened my eyes to the various viewpoints that we have to keep in mind when thinking about public health. Good public health interventions depend on sound understanding of both the pathology and socio-economics of disease propagation. Public policy needs to be evidence based if we hope to convince the public to make lifestyle changes in order to decrease the risk of diseases.

On another note, studying such an extensive course at my own pace, offline and outside a classroom setting has its own challenges. While it allows me to balance between work, family and academic progression, I have to ensure I stick to a regimen to keep pace with each weeks studies. I think this model is the future of education and we are seeing more and more renowned universities offering distance learning courses.