Impact on skills, knowledge and performance of public health leaders after participating in the University of Suriname Master of Public Health program
Dankerlui, Doreen Nicole
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Like many developing countries, Suriname experiences challenges in maintaining a strong and qualified health workforce, including insufficient graduate training for individuals in public health leadership positions. The University of Suriname established an MPH program in 2008 in order to address this issue, with the first cohort reserved for public health professionals in leadership positions. SPECIFIC AIMS: This study aimed to determine whether this program had an impact on the knowledge, skills and performance of students who participated in this program. The study focused specifically on whether these students developed or strengthened leadership and management competencies, and whether they, as a result, are better equipped to perform the essential public health functions associated with their positions within the Suriname public health system. SETTING: Research was done in Suriname between December 2011 and February 2012 at various Ministry of Health locations. The study sample consisted of students from the first cohort of the MPH program. METHODS: Mixed methods were used for data collection. Eighteen students were surveyed using a questionnaire. Additional data were gathered from eight students and two key informants through in-depth interviews, a focus group, anecdotal discussions and email correspondence. The questionnaire captured the students' opinions on which competencies were important for effective public health leadership and management and assessed their own competencies and whether participating in the MPH program had developed or strengthened these competencies. RESULTS: Student responses reflected agreement on the skills needed for effective public health leadership and management. Approximately half rated themselves as strong on the skills considered most important (strategic thinking/planning skills and communication skills). The majority reported a limited impact of the program on development and strengthening of these skills, with a significant difference in the responses of students from different tracks. This finding was supported by follow-up discussions with the students and a key informant from the Ministry of Health. There was agreement among all that additional training in several leadership and management areas would be useful. CONCLUSIONS: A needs assessment should be performed to determine which topics within the broad fields of leadership and management would be most relevant. In addition, the curriculum for the MPH program should focus on developing and strengthening leadership and management competencies. Implementing these recommended strategies will contribute to strengthening of the public health capacity in Suriname.
- Global health