Sonia Colianni has always wanted to help people. After two years of experience working alongside the executive team of the European Pharmaceutical Students’ Association, she amassed seven years of service in community pharmacies. The Italian student then wanted to develop her skills further to support people with health and social difficulties. The pieces fell into place when she found the Public Health by Distance Learning programme at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
Available as a postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and MSc, this programme gives students the ability to improve the health of populations and particular groups. You learn how to promote health and prevent disease, develop and evaluate care practices, and investigate and control environmental threats to health. Modules cover diverse public health issues in low, middle and high-income settings, giving you a broad range of knowledge.
For Sonia, a highlight module was “Environment, Health & Sustainable Development.” “It covered many different aspects related to natural resources and the negative impact on human health if the environment is disrespected by human activities and exploited without considering the need for maintaining natural resources for future generations,” she says. “Climate change and the lack of food and water in many parts of the globe is a strong signal that urgent solutions are needed.”
Learning how to address such issues is a crucial part of the varied curriculum. MSc Public Health by Distance Learning offers a general public health stream as well as four specialist streams:Environment and Health, Health Economics, Health Promotion, and Health Services Management.
A major feature, no matter which stream you choose, is the flexibility that distance learning offers. Sonia was nervous about juggling her responsibilities and jumping back into university 10 years after her last qualification, an MSc in Pharmacy. “The distance learning programme allows me to schedule the time I am able to dedicate to the study, and sometimes I set up calls with other students in order to speak together about a module or specific chapters/topics,” she says. “This is highly motivational for proceeding with constant speed in my academic path.”
While studying in the comfort of her home and being able to decide her own schedule were the main reasons for choosing this programme, Sonia was worried that she would miss out on the social element and collaboration an in-person degree would offer. “Surprisingly, and as early as my first year of study, I was in contact with numerous other distance learning LSHTM students from many parts of the globe and different job areas. To know there are other students with me was highly motivational and I cannot wait to virtually meet many other new fellow students during my second year of study,” she says.
Interacting with a diverse community of students from different cultures and religions is invaluable in many ways. Sonia feels that this multicultural environment helped her grow as a woman and health professional. International students are made to feel welcome at LSHTM, no matter their background, culture, religion or sexual orientation. “I think this is possible through the skilled staff that work within the LSHTM but also the numerous types of activities that the School conducts,” she adds. “In this way, everyone feels included and is part of the LSHTM family.”
The experienced lecturers are easily contacted through Moodle, the online learning platform, and prioritise clarifying doubts as they arise. Moodle is also where recorded lectures are posted, and a chat box is available to interact with other students to compare ideas and results. This distance learning programme also features live events throughout the semester, which may be followed remotely. “Last year, it was very inspiring to follow online conferences regarding the dramatic health consequences in Syria and Turkey after the earthquake, others about violence against children and many other webinars of current interest,” says Sonia.
The MSc Public Health by Distance Learning includes 14 modules or 11 modules plus a project report. It can be completed in two to five years. Students who choose this programme join from a range of academic backgrounds. You could be a health professional working at a service or policy level or want to obtain public health skills that you can apply to your work in development, community services, government, research or teaching.
Entering her second year of the distance learning programme, Sonia has explored many issues still prevalent in populated societies as well as the challenges faced by remote places around the globe. LSHTM has helped her develop a desire to contribute more in the future as a public health professional. Sonia hopes to improve health conditions, especially for marginalised societal groups. “I am sure that all the concepts that I am absorbing during my distance learning programme will be beneficial for letting me handle public health issues that will reveal to be fruitful and, mostly, inclusive,” she says.
Find out more about The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s distance learning programmes.