With focus on social and economic determinants of health
Damon Barrett, Associate Senior Lecturer and researcher at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, is one of the teachers at the Master’s Programme in Public Health Science, Health Equality.
What does the Master’s Programme in Public Health Science offer students?
– I think our programme does a very good job of mixing method with practice. We look not just at research methods and epidemiology, but also what it means to implement public health in practice, from advanced economic analysis to governance, to ethical and human rights questions. The combination of those gives students the broad tools they need to go on become a public health professional or, if they wish, to do further research.
I think the profile of this Master of Public Health programme in focusing on health equality makes it stand out.
The programme has two streams, health economics and health equality. In what way is the content interesting and relevant for young people today?
– It depends on the kind of student. All students will get a foundation in public health science, ethics and human rights, and of course epidemiology. But there is also the chance to specialize. A red thread in the programme is a focus on health disparities and the social and economic determinants of health. This is an interdisciplinary challenge. In addition to epidemiology, a range of skills are required from health economics to knowledge of governance and how to design interventions. We offer streams that play to students’ strengths and their interests, allowing some choice as what they wish to focus on.
Is there anything in particular when it comes to the content of the programme where the University of Gothenburg stands out compared to other universities?
– I think the profile of this Master of Public Health programme in focusing on health equality makes it stand out. There are very few with that kind of red thread leading through an entire programme.
– We are also a truly international programme, both in terms of our staff and of course our students. Half of our students are not from Sweden, and we have students from every continent taking part. Their professional and academic backgrounds are also very different, from medicine to development studies to law. Beacause of this, students learn so much from each other. I think that it’s wonderful that, during our discussions, a student interrupts your view of the world by saying: “Things are completely different where I come from” or: “That’s approached differently in my field.” It gives you a whole other thing to talk about.
– And of course another thing that distinguishes us is that we are in Gothenburg. It’s a great city, on the fantastic west coast of Sweden.
We look at what it means to implement public health in practice.
Could you give an example of positive feedback you’ve received from students about the programme?
– Well for me, because my teaching focuses on human rights and health equality, I try to engage students in combining theories or concepts with contemporary problems in public health. When students report back that some of this gave them a different way of looking at public health problems, or make them think of something new, or maybe inspired them to focus on a topic for their thesis, that’s great feedback for me as a teacher.
What is your best piece of advice for a student coming to study at your programme?
– Practically speaking I would say that time management is really important. Think about how you will organize your studies. I would also advise students to familiarize themselves with all of the wonderful support that’s available at the University of Gothenburg, from assistance with studies to wellbeing. Remember, too, that you will need very good English for master’s level study.
– But the main thing I would say is that this is not a programme where you’ll simply sit in front of lecturers being told the right answer to things. You’ll be given the tools to think critically about public health. In order to do that you need to be ready to take part, discuss and debate. This is an important part of our pedagogical approach, which we are very proud of. So I would advise students to get ready for that kind of learning. Be ready to take part, to think and to be challenged.
TEXT: Anna Vörös