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Transforming Education

Making Primary Care Better - Globally

When it comes to helping healthcare to be better for people around the world, we are investing in overcoming challenges and breaking down boundaries wherever they exist. Ours is an ambitious and innovative approach that is ensuring a University of Exeter education creates professionals who can confidently rise to any challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of public health and primary care into sharp focus, from treating people with COVID to facilitating vaccine distribution. Managing the impact of the virus is carried out in community settings, and the World Health Organisation have increasingly highlighted the importance of primary care as the most cost-effective way of improving health.

Yet many countries around the world are struggling with inadequate primary care systems, hampering not only their response to the pandemic, but to other chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. There is often a disconnect between public health policy and primary care practice – with primary care training and continuing development remaining beyond the reach of many practitioners.

To help address this issue, Professor Alex Harding and his colleagues at the College of Medicine and Health have joined forces with medical professionals, commercial providers of primary care software systems and NGOs to run a new online course: Principles of Primary Care International CPD.

January 2021’s inaugural course attracted 20 health practitioners from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Many of the attending GPs, nurses, project managers and recently graduated medical students were from low and middle-income countries and were supported by the generous donations of supporters through a philanthropic scholarship fund.

The course aims to help health professionals strengthen primary care in their own countries, building their ability to make a meaningful, practical impact in their communities by giving them the opportunity to:

  • Explore the core concepts of both public health and primary care to provide an integrated approach.
  • Take away a toolkit of practical skills to put learning into practice.
  • Get ongoing mentorship from the faculty to design a project that can improve primary care provision in their area.
  • Participate in an ongoing ‘knowledge exchange’, where participants and alumni from across the globe support each other and share solutions to common problems.

“I want to acquire more knowledge and skills, to be able to improve the health of the population, especially in the remote area of Rwanda where infrastructure usually hinders the effective delivery of primary care services.”


GP at Munini Hospital, Republic of Rwanda

Adam cites poor antenatal care as a particular issue that contributes to increased deaths among mothers and his completion of the module will enable him to complete further research to increase antenatal care in the rural community.

The course has recently been endorsed by Wendy Morton, MP and Minister for Global Health at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and by the World Health Organisation.

Following its early success, Professor Harding is aiming to run it at least every six months. “Our ambition is to offer the course to a growing number of health professionals from low and middle-income countries to continue to support capacity building in primary care to improve health care outcomes.”

The team has also secured a grant to deliver the course in Nepal and the next course has already received around 40 requests for scholarship places, mainly from Africa and Asia.

The College of Medicine and Health are also expanding their CPD with two further international courses delivered virtually. Principles of Health Protection will be delivered in November 2021 to provide a grounding in the core principles of health protection.

Nature, Health and Well-being will be delivered in March and April 2022 by experts from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health. It will look at the relationship between nature and health, why this matters for the environment, public health and sustainability, and how these findings can be applied to local practice.

If you’d like to support the next cohort of practitioners, you can do so through the Scholarship Fund.