More on the Global Health Programme Modules – Research Methodology and Health Policy, Management & Economics

It is hard to believe that we only have two modules left of the Global Health Masters programme; Maternal & Child Health and Non-communicable diseases, Injuries & Emergencies. Each will last two weeks, so at the beginning of February, life as we know it will change. No longer will we be spending every day in a classroom. Instead, we will all go in separate ways to work on our theses, be it in Sweden or in another country. I have just submitted my thesis proposal and will soon recieve feedback from my peer reviewer during a two day session of proposal presentations. I will write more about the thesis process in a later blog.

Before moving on to independent study/ thesis work, and while they are still fresh in my mind,  I would like to write a couple of blogs about the classes we have taken since the Introduction to Global Health class that I wrote about previously. Here I will write about: Research Methodology and Health Policy, Management & Economics and in my next blog I will describe: Infectious diseases, Maternal & Child  Health and Non-Communicable Diseases, Injuries & Emergencies.

Research Methodology

The course syllabus informs us that after completion of the Research Methodology course the student should be able to:

  • Describe how to design, collect and analyze data in qualitative and quantitative projects.
  • Use appropriate statistical methods for the analysis of different data sets, interpret and present findings from statistical analyses in a clear, concise, and logical manner.
  • Identify problems caused by systematic errors, bias and confounding in interpreting epidemiological data.
  • Describe and discuss key characteristics of qualitative data collection methods and reflect on their main advantages and challenges
  • Describe key characteristics of main qualitative analysis methods including the role of the researcher in the process of  analysis
  • Assess strengths and limitations of different sources of epidemiological and qualitative data on health status & health care utilization in low, middle, and high-income countries.
  • Compare qualitative and quantitative approaches and understand when these are best used singly or in combination

This five week course is intense. How much you learn depends on what you come with. If you have not studied it before or if it has been many years since you studied it, it is a rather steep learning curve (especially for Biostatistics!).  However, it is important to point out that it is a basic methods course, which gives you a thorough introduction rather than an in-depth understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methodology. Going back to the syllabus, my personal experience is that I am now familiar with the differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches; what types of study designs and means of analysis that are available for each; how to think when one works with a particular methodology/ study design and how to go about critically assessing their strengths and weaknesses.

The Global Health Masters is a one year course and an important part of the programme is the thesis. The thesis itself is therefore an important vehicle for immersing onself into a particular type of research methodology and thereby becoming an “expert”. When classes come to an end, we are offered voluntary sessions, which go into more depth regarding our chosen methodology. Furthermore, we are supervised during the course of our thesis work. I have chosen to do a qualitative project for my thesis and expect to  be confident performing this type of study at the end of the process. When it comes to quantitative projects, I  now have a basic understanding and a platform on which to build if I work on this type of project in the future. The opposite will be the case of my classmates who have chosen quantitative thesis projects.

Health Policy, Management & Economics

According to the course syllabus, after completion of the course, the student should be able  to:

  • Analyze health care systems in low and middle income countries (LMIC)
  • Describe processes in planning and implementation of health care services in LMIC
  • Describe and explain some management and leadership models in health care and be able to use them analytically in the context of LMIC
  • Apply some basic concepts and tools in health economics
  • Describe basic health care financing models and use them analytically
  • Describe the Swedish health care system and relate issues around it to generic health systems issues.

This is a three week course and requires more reading than any of the other courses, which is quite a challenge since we are in class from 9-4 every day. In my opinion, the readings are relevant and they serve to give us a good understanding of health systems, health policy and health financing. However, I do believe that it might have been more useful to replace full-day lectures (considering the fact that many of these more or less repeated what we had learned from the readings) with seminars, with the aim of further unpacking concepts and applying them to different contexts. Also, as suggested by one of my classmates, “it might be productive to draw more from the students’ own knowledge and experiences of health policy and different health systems”. In addition, changing the structure might also allow the programme to allocate more time to Health Economics, which was unfortunately covered very quickly and at a much more basic level than I had anticipated.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me:!

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