No less than 71 Ghanaian health professionals attended the 1 year Master of International Health course in Denmark from 1998 to 2013. It was a massive human resource capacity-building exercise facilitated by Danida Fellowship Centre.
By Jesper Heldgaard, Freelance Journalist
From 1998 to 2013 The University of Copenhagen offered a Master of International Health (MIH) Course. Every year, around 25 students from a dozen different countries completed the course, which focused on challenges in health and health systems in low- and middle-income countries. An important element was a four weeks field trip to India, where the students were given the opportunity to test theories and methods in practice.
A total of 71 Ghanaians took the MIH-degree in Denmark, and most of them are now back in Ghana working in key positions all over the country.
The following are excerpts gathered from the Masters on the impact of their training in Denmark.
“The training in MIH has prepared me to take up an appointment as a District Director of Health Service.
My job description is to provide expert advice to the District Assembly on all matters of health. Among other things, I am in charge of monitoring the implementation of Clinical and Public Health interventions including Communicable Disease Control and Surveillance, Reproductive, Adolescent and Child Health, Nutrition and Health Promotion.
I do appreciate the DANIDA scholarship for capacity building a lot. Most of my colleagues who benefited from the program are either District Directors of Health Service or Principals of Health Learning Institutions.
Josephine Atusfe Ahorsu (MIH 2008)
A career maker
“I am currently doing a residency programme in public health with the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. The MIH was a partial fulfillment of the requirements to enter the programme. I am also a Medical superintendent and acting District Director of Health – a role that MIH helped prepare me for.”
Abigail Codjoe (MIH 2013)
“The course gave me the opportunity to go to India. I am not saying India has a perfect health system, but India inspired me as to how to do proper community health efforts, how to get to the community and then mobilize the community to participate in health initiatives. It has also trained me in team organising, because the course taught us how to build a team. You need to recognize that everybody has a role to play. It is not like you being the big man. People saying, yes sir! No, we need to work as a team and that is what I now apply in my position as District Health Director in Sissala East.”
Alex Bapula (MIH 2008)
A life-changing experience
“Getting a sponsorship and getting admitted into the MIH programme has been the most life changing experience to me! Studying at the University of Copenhagen gave me a lot of opportunities. One was the opportunity to network with great minds around the globe on Global Health. In 2014, I was appointed a District Director of Health Service becoming the youngest District Director of the Ghana Health Service. Later in 2014, I was given a Consultancy job by the World Health Organization to support the South Sudan Government in the area of Childhood Immunization (EPI) and Surveillance.”
Emmanuel K. Sanwuok (MIH 2012)
“Today, I am a District Director of Health Services in Ghana managing my district’s health system. Some lessons learned from Denmark: Punctuality, accurate documentation, meeting timelines, effective planning and support for the less privileged.”
Gertrude Yentumi (MIH 2010)
Useful in Ebola response
“The MIH program has indeed played an important role in my career path. With the experience gained I have effectively played key managerial roles in the Ghana Health Service. In 2014, I was deployed to Liberia during the Ebola outbreak and my knowledge of public health in low and middle income countries gained through the MIH was of great use during that period.”
Gifty Sunkwa-Mills (MIH 2011)
“There were students from other countries: East Africa, Denmark, Bhutan and also from Vietnam. So it was a very diverse group, and I learned from each one of them.”
Rufina Asuru (MIH 1999)
A word from the MIH-founder
The idea of offering the MIH-course was conceived by Dr. Ib Bygbjerg, professor at the University of Copenhagen. He also headed the course from the start. The feedback from former students confirms that the idea was right, even though it also carried some risks:
“When you train people from a country like Ghana, there is always a risk that they will use their degree to leave for greener pastures like Europe. But very few have done so. Most have gone back and now take up higher positions. Some have, of course, left their country of origin, but mainly to go to other African countries and use their new competences in the Ebola response, for example.
Another risk when you invite health staff from deprived areas like Northern Ghana to study in Denmark, is that they may not have the qualifications to really benefit from the training. But again, this did not cause problems. The students, we had from Northern Ghana, were indeed competent, which also has to do with Ghana’s strong focus on public health.”
The MIH-course closed for uptake in 2013 and the last student has graduated, but the University of Copenhagen has since 2013 offered a two years Master of Science (MSc) in Global Health course which has also attracted Ghanaian students.
Back in Ghana, three of the Masters explain what they gained from the Master of International Health. Watch Dr. Zakari Bukari, Rufina Asuru and Alex Bapula in this short film
The Danish Embassy in Ghana has launched a study, documenting Danida’s 22 years in the Ghanaian health sector. Throughout the years, Danida has advocated for a strong pro-poor focus and advocated for primary health care interventions aimed at the poorest Ghanaians in the most remote areas and with the highest mortality rates. Danida’s support to the health sector will end in 2016.
Read more about Danida’s involvement in the Ghanaian health sector 1994-2015 here.
Also take a look at the magazine ‘A Healthy Partnership,’ an account of 22 years of live-saving cooperation in the health sector.