Masters in Public Health


by chikwe ihekweazu

Have you noticed how many Nigerians are doing MPHs these days?

I teach a specific module at a few MPH classes in Universities in the UK and have noticed and increasing number of colleagues from Nigeria. Always proud of the few that have chosen this career path, we have often stayed in touch and exchanged thoughts on how some of our skills can be transferred to improving the health of Nigerians. These informal links led to some of us coming together and forming the Nigerian Public Health Network in order to achieve synergy between our professional careers in public health and our personal interests in Nigeria.

However nothing quite prepared me for the lecture of 2 weeks ago at the MPH class of a major UK University.

70% of the class of the students were Nigerians. 70%!

…OK …is this a coincidence? I don’t think so

In all 4 Universities I have thought in this year on the MPH course…there have been a large number of Nigerians, many medics but also many colleagues from other health backgrounds…

Wow….I thought. Is the tide really turning in Nigeria. All these young enthusiastic Nigerians, paying through their teeth, eager to confront health problems from a population perspective. Are we really on the way to confronting our health problems: to raising our scandalous maternal mortality rates, to finally organising primary health care, to vaccinating our children, to developing functional health policies and implementing them? Finally…are we going to get the strategic thinking so desperately missing from our health sector?

Some is this surge will be linked to decreasing opportunities to pursue medical specialist training in the UK but definitely not all of it …

Many too will be driven by the flawed perception of bumper salaries awaiting them in international organisations

Whatever the path to public health is…it is all good. Most of us…including yours sincerely…had no inkling of the relevance of public health while in medical school. I so much wanted to be like the huge cardio-thoracic surgeon that walked our corridors with such a swagger, or the elegant physician who always came impeccably dressed with his bow-tie and pockerchief.

As a medical student, I hated, hated biostatistics….especially the way it was taught at the University of Nigeria! Those Friday afternoon lectures..teaching how to manually calculate chi-square tests! Or the boring lectures about sanitation.

But…that was before my eyes were opened to the huge potential of the study of public health the science and the art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting physical and mental health and efficiency through organized community efforts”…

…and the huge, untapped potential use to a country like ours..Nigeria

Therefore, I am happy to welcome all the new entrants into our chosen career…and hope that together we can make a difference!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

Discussion3 Comments

  1. while it is laudable to pursue an MPH degree,it must be pointed out that the passion to change health perspective and policy often require innate determination which will not be taught at an MPH.
    Some very experienced health policy people I know dont even have an MPH degree.All in all its one way but not the only way to effect change in our countries health direction.
    I feel Medica schools and even secondary schools should start including basic public health issues into thier curricula and make it fun to learn
    ie-Basic life support education is non existant in Nigeria

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