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Masters and Diploma in Public Health

The programme strives to develop public health practitioners who will:

  • Promote equity in health.
  • Play a leadership role in public health.
  • Attain a broad understanding of the core disciplines of public health.
  • Develop expertise in at least one area within the broad field of public health.
  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of health, the health care system and public health problems.
  • Develop skills of critical and analytical thinking.

How to Apply:

Entry into the programme is not automatic. You will have to apply for the MPH programme, and your application is subject to review by a selection panel. The MPH/DPH is offered as a part time block programme over three years.  In order to accommodate the work/study interface, most fields of study (FoS) are offered only as part-time programmes. 

The MPH/DPH applications is open between 1 April 2021 to 31 July 2021 for 2022 intake.

Admission Requirements for both MPH and DPH

  • A Bachelor’s degree of at least four years duration in dental science, medicine, surgery, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, or Bachelor of Science Honours.
  • A Bachelor of Arts or Science with honours in psychology, sociology, social work or other field of relevance to public health.

Application process and forms

Postgraduate applicants can now apply and pay online. The link to online applications is - application must be accompanied by the following documents:

  • Written motivation by the applicant, detailing the motivation for applying for the course and how the programme fits with their overall career goals. Motivation template: Motivation 2021
  • Comprehensive Curriculum Vitae, including a description of relevant research and work experience
  • A motivation for applying to the field of study
  • Two referee reports. Referee template: MPH Referee Report 2021
  • Certified copies of prior qualification(s).
  • Original transcripts of qualifications (please upload electronically before emailing supporting documents)
  • Evidence of familiarity with computer packages such as MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, MS Access etc.
  • Foreign qualifications evaluation from SAQA for applicants who graduated from non- South African universities.
  • English competency certificate or evidence of prior undergraduate training in English.

Supporting documents for applications should be uploaded by the candidate on the online self-service platform.

Specializations in six different fields (MPH/DPH codes):

  • Social and Behaviour Change Communication (MFASBCC61/MFASBCC50)
  • Rural Health (MFARURH61/MFARURH50)
  • Maternal and Child Health (MFAMACH61/MFAMACH50) 
  • Health Systems and Policy (MFAHSAP61/MFAHSSP50) and 
  • Health Economics (MFAHECN60)
  • Exposure and Health (MFAESI60)

The above MPH field of studies will all be offered in 2022.

Structure of the MPH programme:

The MPH is offered as both a part-time block release programme (3-4 years programme) and a full-time block release (2-year programme). Currently, the only field of study that we offer on a full-time block release basis is Social and Behavior Change Communication. The modular block release structure (for both part-time and full-time block release studies) requires you to attend 1- week teaching blocks from 8-5pm Monday to Friday, sometimes spilling over into Saturday. For 2020, the MPH is only being offered part time. 

For the part-time block release programme, the gap between teaching blocks is usually 5-6 weeks; 6 modules must be completed in the first year. Exams are written in June and/or October of the academic year. For the full time block release programme the gap between the teaching blocks is usually 2-3 weeks; you will be required to complete all coursework (i.e. 12 modules) in the first year, and the research component in the 2nd year.

Health and Society

This module provides an overview of the historical foundations of public health and the influences of socio-cultural and other structural factors in society on health and well-being. It introduces some of the current debates in public health, both locally and internationally and highlights the range of research methods required to investigate public health issues. It is a core module for the MPH/DPH because it establishes the context in which public health practice occurs. The aim of this module is to enable the students to develop a critical understanding of the complex interaction of the cultural and social environment on population health and well being

Health Measurement I

The Health Measurement I module is envisaged to provide an overview of the methods used to measure health and disease, including the principles of epidemiology and its application in public health. It is a core module for the MPH/DPH because it introduces students to the methods for measuring the distribution and determinants of public health problems, an important first step in addressing health and disease at population level.

Approaches to Population Health

This module provides an overview of the conceptualization of population health and approaches to addressing public health challenges. Students will be introduced to the underlying principles of health promotion, levels of prevention and the role of health systems, governance and regulation in understanding and addressing health issues at the population level. This is a core module for the MPH/DPH because it introduces the critical link between population health and health systems.

Designing Effective Public Health Programmes

This module takes students through the programme planning cycle and outlines the underlying principles of design, planning, monitoring and evaluation of public health programmes. Students are introduced to management and leadership and to the core skills required to deliver effective health programmes. This is a core module for the MPH/DPH because of the critical role of public health practitioners in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating health programmes.

Health Measurement II

This module is split into two streams of measurement, i.e. a quantitative stream and a qualitative stream. Students will register for Health II, but choose to join a stream of their choice. This is usually determined by your predominant research methodology chosen for your research.

Quantitative Stream

The aim of this module is enable students to practically apply some important measurement concepts that they were taught in the core Health Measurement I module. In the Health Measurement I module students learnt about the different types of data that are used to measure population health (with a focus on epidemiological data); were introduced to Epi-info as a data management and analysis tool; learnt the concepts of summary and inferential statistics; and used Epi-info to apply descriptive statistics to a small dataset.


In addition to the five core courses for Part I, students will be required to select one additional course. For the field of Health Systems and Policy, you can choose between one of two electives, i.e. The Rural Health Care Context or Child Health I but for ALL other fields, your field of specialisation determines your elective selection.

Health Systems and Policy

The MPH/DPH in the field of Health Systems and Policy (previously Health Policy and Management) provides training and skills primarily to middle and senior managers working in the public and non-governmental sectors and prepares them to deal with the changing policy dynamics and health system challenges of South Africa and the rest of Africa. The content includes a range of themes in health systems and policy including analysis of policy development and implementation, health care financing, health system approaches to planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of HIV/AIDS programmes and health systems evaluation and research. This field of study is coordinated by the Centre for Health Policy (CHP), a grant-funded research unit in the School.

Social and Behavior Change Communication

The MPH/DPH in the field of Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) aims to address the growing need for quality health communication interventions to bring about social and behaviour change in Sub-Saharan Africa. This field provides students with the skills to analyze the social and behavioural determinants of health and access to health services in sub-Saharan Africa. Students will develop skills in applying social and behavioural theory to research and health communication programmes. Students in this field will also gain skills in designing and implementing social and behavioural change strategies, using a range of approaches, which aim to address key health and social issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and maternal health. Students also will engage with the role of research in the design, monitoring and evaluation of social and behaviour change communication programmes. SBCC offers five field-specific modules (one in Part I and four in Part II).

Maternal and Child Health

The MPH/DPH in the field of Maternal and Child Health is designed to prepare professionals working in government departments, NGOs, the private sector or academic institutions for leadership positions in the field of Maternal and Child Health. The four modules include Child Health I and II, Maternal and Reproductive Health and Perinatal and Paediatric HIV. The course focuses on developing student's competencies in areas such as critical and analytic thinking, management and communication, policy and advocacy, working with others (including community) and ethics and values. The course is designed to integrate the achievement of these diverse skills into the coursework and assignments. Although the course includes clinical issues (such as diarrhoeal disease, child disability or maternal mortality), the emphasis is on the programmatic dimensions of the critical issues affecting women and children, particularly in resource constrained settings. This field of study is coordinated by the Division of Community Paediatrics.

Rural Health

The MPH/DPH in the field of Rural Health aims to address the critical need for health care professionals in rural areas to take leadership in supporting and developing the health service in these areas, in designing appropriate health systems and in researching and advocating around the health needs of rural people. The course provides students with the necessary skills to enhance their public health knowledge to manage not only existing conditions, but also to promote health and prevent diseases within the communities in which they practice. The content includes a range of core modules in rural health which enables graduates to be effective leaders in the health service, manage their resources, develop appropriate programmes, work with communities and advocate on behalf of rural people. The research component will enable graduates to monitor the effectiveness of their interventions and provide evidence for other rural health care practitioners. This field of study is co-ordinated by the Centre for Rural Health

Exposure and Health

Exposure and Health (E & H) is a new field of study in the MPH, and focuses on the relationship between occupational and environmental exposures and the potential impact(s) on the health of workforces and communities. Individuals are exposed to contaminants resulting from anthropogenic activities during their entire life times and in various environments. Prevention of potential health impacts cannot be considered in isolation but requires an integrated approach. Such a multi-disciplinary approach focuses on the mitigation of human health risk, either by control of exposure, or by reducing the vulnerability or enhancing the resilience of the workforce and community.

Click here for more information.

Health Economics

The field of Health Economics aims to build a critical mass of health economists equipped with skills in applying economic principles to support health policy decision-making in South Africa and the region. This field covers two main areas: economic evaluation and micro-economics as applied to health. Graduates of the MPH Health Economics programme will be trained to undertake health economic evaluation applicable to the sub-Saharan African context; apply economic approaches to inform policy decisions on the efficient allocation of scarce resources; and provide technical advice to policy-makers on the use of economic policy levers to modify health behaviours.

NB: In addition to the courses determined by your field of specialization in your 2nd year, you will be required to complete a compulsory Research Methods protocol development module in Part II of the MPH/DPH program. This is a pre-requisite course for DPH candidates to complete their diploma and for MPH candidates to progress to Part III.