The Health in Context course is a 6-week course offered to University of Cape Town 4th year medical students to prepare future medical practitioners appropriately for working in our South African health system and to be responsive to the broader South African societal context. The course integrates public health, family medicine, palliative care, health promotion and child health. Using a combination of in class and in community sessions, the course introduces students to the practice of community-oriented primary care (COPC) through theoretical and experiential learning including a targeted intervention determined by the needs of a specific community. Applying the COPC approach, this course trains future doctors to: The COPC model links individual clinical care to the broader population-level determinants of health.

Application of this approach requires health professionals to:

  • Understand the broader population-level determinants of health across all life stages; and the impact of socio-economic and environmental factors on the quality of an individual’s life and health, so that appropriate clinical and social management decisions can be made.
  • Become involved in initiatives that address socio-economic and environmental causes of ill health within communities, equipping students with public health and health promotion skills to assess the needs of communities, and to plan and evaluate interventions.

The course applies 5 cross-cutting theme questions which are interdigitated through all aspects of the course and speak directly to the course learning outcomes.

  1. What is going on? Burden of disease/health systems
  2. Why is it happening? Upstream & intersectoral determinants
  3. How do we understand this? Equity, Rights, advocacy
  4. What shall we do about it? Comprehensive health care: preventive, promotive, curative, palliative & rehabilitative
  5. How do we do this? Research / Quality improvement

For more information about the course, see outline