School of Public Health


The School of Public Health is committed to the concept of a healthy population having equitable access to resources and highly competent health care professionals to achieve a better quality of life. Some of the guiding values include: openness, social engagement, mutual respect, social justice and life-long learning.

Cognisant of the social and biological determinants of health, the department of Public Health, imbued with the guiding values, strive to employ our skills in knowledge generation and support action to promote health equity by:

  • providing a creative learning environment

  • promoting the provision of high quality health care

  • engaging with health care providers, communities and agencies charged with protecting, improving and promoting family and population health

       so as to contribute towards just social development locally, nationally and on the African continent.

Clinical Services

Members of our department are on joint appointment with the Western Cape Government Health, and provide clinical services at Groote Schuur Hospital, Valkenberg Hospital, Lentegeur Hospital, Red Cross Children's War Memorial Hospital, and Alexandra Hospital. In line with the vision of the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Western Cape Government, we are committed to a primary care approach in each of our divisions/focus areas. We provide assertive outreach and supportive services to Step-Down Facilities, District Hospitals and Community Health Clinics in the West Metro area, and beyond.


The School of Public Health is a strong multidisciplinary department in the Faculty of Health Sciences with extensive undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and training of medical students as well as students pursuing academic study in the public health sciences. In 2019 the School had 429 postgraduate students registered for its 13 different post-graduate qualifications in public health, health economics, health management, occupational and environmental health. Some of these courses are offered as flexible on-off campus programmes. In its teaching of medical undergraduates in almost every year of the curriculum the emphasis is on primary health care principles, including community oriented practice, holistic patient management and the use of public health sciences to promote health and prevent disease.


The School hosts four University-Recognised Research groupings:

  1. Centre for Infectious Diseases Epidemiology and Research (CIDER)
  2. Centre for Environmental and Occupational Health Research (CEOHR)
  3. Health Economics Unit (HEU)

A substantial body of research is also conducted in the eight disciplinary divisions of the School. The research questions derive from local and regional public health priorities – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cervical cancer, occupational and environmental lung disease, health care access and financing, health and human rights, social and behavioural aspects of health and many more.

This enables the school to sustain a range of research projects, from student initiated dissertation research to multicentre trials, many of these in collaboration with local and international partners.


The school aims to integrate teaching, research, and clinical services. This integrated approach takes place across the different divisions of the school, which comprise:

The key objective of the Environmental Health division is to develop capacity in Low and Middle Income Countries, particularly Africa, to address environmental health risks and reduce the resulting burden of disease. ​​​​​We do this through a post graduate programme in Pesticide Risk Management, teaching seminars and supervising PhD and MPH students in Environmental Health, training of government professionals addressing environmental health risks, and building capacity through innovative electronic forums and networking.

The division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics leads teaching and research around quantitative research methods in the School and Faculty. Courses taught from the Division include Introduction to Epidemiology, Quantitative Research Methods, Advanced Epidemiology, Evidence-Based Health Care, Clinical Epidemiology, Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Non-Communicable Diseases Epidemiology, and a range of biostatistics courses (in conjunction with the Department of Statistical Sciences). 

The Health Economics division works to improve the performance of health systems in sub-Saharan Africa through policy relevant teaching and research in health economics and health systems.

Through our educational, research and social engagement collaborations, we strive to generate scholarship for health system development and the promotion of social justice.

Our work we seeks to deepen the understanding of the dynamics of health policy change and health system development, with particular concern for issues of governance and stewardship, the dynamics of policy implementation, and the role of the health system in enabling health equity and public value. 

Occupational Medicine is that branch of medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and ill-health attributable to work.

The practice of Public Health Medicine focuses on the delivery of population-oriented services aimed at promoting the health of communities, teaching in public health across disciplines and research to advance population health.

The division of Social and Behavioural Sciences (SBS) coordinates the School’s teaching and research activities in the social and behavioural sciences.  Social and behavioural science research offers insight into the “how” and “why” questions in public health. Teaching and training in these disciplines offers students and professionals a diverse range of skills that can be applied in varied contexts.