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My timetable and modules as a MSc Public Health (Health Promotion) student

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Mahdin, a student on the MSc Public Health (Health Promotion stream), takes a look at his master's timetable so far - the modules, the content and what to expect as a student on the programme.

One of the greatest advantages of being a student at LSHTM is the immensely wide array of topics that you can study within the broader field of public health. Because the School is entirely dedicated to global and public health, you get a unique opportunity to take niche electives that are relevant to your exact areas of interests led by some of the greatest minds in that field.

I am in the MSc Public Health on the Health Promotion stream which means that in addition to meeting requirements for an MSc in Public Health, I also take specially focused classes to learn the skills required for developing health promotion interventions. Our MSc is the biggest programmes offered at the School and is the only one that offers “streams” where you can specialise in a particular area whilst still gaining a master's in public health. My stream (Health Promotion) is one of five offered within our MSc and being on it means I take a three classes/modules that differ from general students.

Modules at LSHTM are usually set up with two to three module organisers who are the head professors in charge of the class, but the content throughout the module is then taught by many different experts in the field (often including your module organisers as well). What this means is you will have many different lecturers come teach you their expertise rather than one professor teaching the whole module. This was new to me because in my undergrad, one professor taught all the lectures of one class, but it was such an incredible experience to meet so many different people doing such incredible work.

With the incredibly wide array of modules available, everyone’s schedules look different based on what the topics they’re interested in, the skills they want to walk away with, and the stream they are on. The school year is split into three terms with each one looking a little different in terms of class meeting times. For health promotion students, we are required to take one specific class during each term. Otherwise, your schedule is up you. Here’s how my schedule looked throughout the year!

Term 1

During this 10-week term (with a one week break in the middle), modules are scheduled for half of the day (either AM or PM) to meet once a week. For example, a module can be scheduled for Tuesday AMs and within that three-hour window, this can include lecture time with the whole module and seminar time with a smaller group. This term goes for ten weeks, so each module has ten scheduled blocks of time. Public Health students are required to take four modules and then choose two more from five options.

My required modules include:

  • Basic Statistics for Public Health and Policy: As the name suggests, this class introduces students to basic concepts of statistics that are useful for all public health practitioners. It goes over how to calculate certain statistics, understand statistical reports, and write reports. It’s a nice class to ensure we all have a baseline understanding of the statistics that drive public health.
  • Basic Epidemiology: In this module, we were all introduced to the idea of “what is epidemiology?” and how does it look in practice. We learned about different methods of epidemiology and how to break apart public health research studies. Epidemiology is a key part of public health so I appreciated having a class dedicated to understanding what that exactly means.
  • Issues in Public Health: This module gave us a broad overview of the different issues that make public health ranging from concepts of social determinants of health to climate change. It provided a more social sciences perspective and approach to introduce public health. Having previously studied public health from a social science perspective (my undergrad was in health equity and justice), this module was really of interest to me.
  • Principles of Social Research: Our fourth required module had us go through different research methods for public health, how to go about them, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to understand studies that utilise each one. I liked being introduced to various research methods because it was particularly helpful when thinking about our MSc summer projects. It was helpful to know what methods exist and what would be the particular benefit to choosing a method for the topic I was interested in.

The two Term 1 elective blocks for Public Health vary student to student and each one relates to the stream options. We officially confirm our streams towards the end of Term 1 which means you can pick electives of streams you might be potentially interested in. To be able to confirm a stream, you must have taken the stream specific elective during Term 1. If you’re interested in the general stream, you take whichever you would find most interesting. My two modules were:

  • Foundations of Health Promotion: This is the stream specific requirement for everyone who wants to do the Health Promotion stream. We learned about the idea of “what is health?” and further, what does it mean to promote health? The class laid out a lot of foundational concepts needed to think about creating interventions to affect public health rather than thinking about methods to do so (that comes next term!).
  • Health Policy, Process, and Power: This module is required for the Health Services Management stream but many students (like me) were interested in health policy. Our professors organised the class to introduce us to what health policy is, the process of creating policy, and then the different elements of power that go into health policy. They challenged us to think about policy beyond just a piece of legislation but all the other factors that make it up.

Term 2

This term is set up quite differently from the first term. It is also 10 weeks long, but it’s split into two five-week sections called C-block and D-block (with a one break in between the blocks). During each block, you select two modules that meet for half of the week (so Monday, Tuesday, and half of Wednesday or the other half of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). Since modules are much smaller this term, how meeting time is used varies a lot from module to module. I was personally in small enough modules that all scheduled class time was with the whole class, but I know some modules were larger and thus had whole class meeting time and smaller seminar group time as well. The topics available to you in Term 2 are so incredible that most students have a hard time narrowing down which ones they are interested in. If you check out this LSHTM site, you can learn about the modules available this past year and you’ll understand when I say I wanted to take them all! For the modules you don’t sign up for, you actually can request access to the materials to still be able to view what the topics covered in those ones are.

My C-block modules (the first half of Term 2) were:

  • Health Promotion Approaches and Methods: This module really goes into the different types of interventions that can be implemented for health promotion sort of organised into three types: individual, community, and structural interventions. Each day, we had a different lecturer teaching us about a different type of intervention and an example of it in use. After the lecture, we would then have the opportunity to do an exercise applying that intervention type in action! It was incredible to learn about a certain method from an expert who actively employs it to promote health.
  • Family Planning Programmes: This module was a much more niche topic than any of the others I had taken before it. I knew I wanted to take some class about designing interventions (thus being on the HP stream) and was interested in reproductive health so this class was a perfect combination of the two. We got to learn about the different aspects that make family planning and then particular challenges to be considered when creating a programme for a certain country from high-income nations although way to considerations of family planning in humanitarian crises. This class was truly incredible for me to really apply my skills of situational analyses and programme development.

My D-block modules (the second half of Term 2) were:

  • Current Issues in Maternal and Perinatal Health: While I loved the other modules I had taken throughout the year, this module was my favourite. The module brought together some of the leading experts in maternal and perinatal health from all around the world to teach us conceptual frameworks to understand problems and their solutions, and the different issues within this field, to connect us with the incredible work being done to address those issues. The module covered issues from the antenatal period to neonatal health and I loved hearing from experts for every step in the process.
  • Health Decision Science: My fourth elective module focused on the different factors that are considered when you have to make a health decision and the science to making said decisions. For example, how does a country decide to employ a vaccine, for whom, and how many? Our module taught us each step of the process to make informed and effective decisions in the face of various public health issues. The module was unlike any of the others I had taken in that I was heavily focused on learning skills and how to do a specific thing (make health decisions).

Term 3

In our final term, we take one class. For our MSc, this is usually dictated by the stream that you are on. The class meets for the first five weeks of term for the second half of the week and the remainder of the term is spent working on your summer project. My third class was selected for the health promotion stream.

  • Integrating Module in Health Promotion: At this point, we have done most of the taught content to specialise in health promotion so our final module is a very intensive one in which you and a group in the class design a health promotion programme to propose for funding. The topic you do is what you can convince the rest of the group to do and each group is limited at 3-5 people. Your project encompasses problem identification, programme design, and then (the most difficult part) putting together all the finalised details a funder would request before giving money to a programme. Throughout the first few weeks, you have a couple lectures to touch on the final details to consider in programme development. The module, though intensive, is very much designed to put everything you learned throughout the year to the test and prepare you with the skills necessary to actively do health promotion out in the world. Learning to do this was the exact reason I wanted to do this stream so it has been wonderful that our module is designed to ensure I am prepared for just that.

As with other public health students, I was able to learn generally about how to be a public health practitioner and even more by being in the health promotion stream, I have been able to specifically learn how to develop programmes to promote health. Throughout it all, I still also had the opportunity to learn about my very niche topics of interest and skills I wanted to pick up in addition to those in our health promotion programme. All in all, it’s been an incredible experience being able to get so much knowledge on all these parts of public health that I am so interested in from the experts in each one.

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