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Using public health education to fight Ebola: Roehampton online student example

By Emeka Aginam

ebola-hygene-at-scoolTHE outbreak of Ebola in parts of West Africa saw health officials, hospitals and other industry stakeholders reassessing their levels of preparedness for dealing with public health emergencies.

Widespread shortages of doctors, nurses and volunteers possessing requisite knowledge and skills for containing the epidemic was recorded in affected areas, resulting in the spread of the deadly disease from Guinea to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Nigeria and outside the shores of Africa.

Against this backdrop, it has become imperative to be able to respond swiftly to stopping the spread of the disease to new localities. In order to achieve this, there is an urgent need for citizens to be empowered to respond to Ebola, alongside other infectious and deadly diseases, and also to properly deal with other chronic public health issues.

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This need for empowerment was an important factor for Daniel Tom-Aba. Currently occupying the role of Senior Data Manager and Team Lead for the Polio and Ebola Emergency Operations Center with the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) in Abuja, Tom-Aba coordinates all data management activities as well as builds software solutions geared at solving public health challenges.

He sought a higher educational degree that would enable him deploy his technological skills in the field of public health more efficiently. To this end, he enrolled for the University of Roehampton, London Online’s Master of Public Health (MPH) programme. Launched in response to the growing need for public health professionals around the world, the Roehampton Online Master of Public Health (MPH) programme features an interdisciplinary approach that enables students to learn from one another and collaborate across geographical regions and disciplines to address public health challenges.

For Tom-Aba, enrolment in the institution’s public health programme was key to bringing his passion for using technology to solve public health problems to life. “As an IT professional working in the public health sector, I wanted to obtain additional knowledge and professional certification to enable me achieve my career goals. Roehampton Online’s MPH programme has provided me with a deeper and practical understanding of public health” he said.

As an online student, Tom-Aba is able to apply what he learns immediately into his professional work. Tom-Aba’s most recent work involves the coordination of activities in the use of technology and social media to enlighten and computerise end-to-end processes for AFENET’s Ebola Outbreak Response Team, contributing significantly to the containment of the virus in Nigeria.

“I was able to provide some support for the containment of the Ebola virus in Nigeria. For me, this is a major accomplishment. My learning from the public health programme has helped me to view the subject of health within a broader spectrum, especially as it relates to socio-ecological factors at intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional and community levels. If an individual does not desire to live a healthy lifestyle, it affects the family unit, the society and the community at large,” he said.

Formerly believed to be a specialised field staffed only by medical personnel, more individuals from other sectors of the economy have begun to gain a deeper understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of public health, the need for collaboration and the role that a wide range of professionals can play in developing an advanced public health system that truly works. Roehampton Online’s MPH programme was designed to address a contemporary public health field, one that includes representation of many disciplines and providing them with the skills to positive impact the health of their communities.

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According to Tom-Aba, the online MPH programme will significantly improve an individual’s ability to evaluate important public health issues and deal with public health challenges such as the Ebola crisis in a timely and appropriate fashion. “I always wanted to be a medical doctor but I feared blood and anything that had to do with hospitals.”

However, I found out that I could still achieve my career goals by combining my skills as an IT professional and public health professional. What is important to me is saving lives and using technology that is available to do so,” he concluded.

For those interested in the field of public health, Roehampton Online also launched an interactive simulation that encourages participants to use their skills, logic and deductive reasoning to help save thousands of lives in the aftermath of a fictitious massive earthquake in the virtual country of Manresa.

 


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