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Empowering health protection practitioners to deliver excellence in public health

12 April 2022

4 minutes to read

Empowering health protection practitioners to deliver excellence in public health

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of health emergency preparation, forward planning and robust outbreak management systems. By expanding its continuing professional development programme, the University is continuing to support public health teams in meeting these challenges.

The College of Medicine and Health, in collaboration with Health Education England, has delivered its Principles of Health Protection continuing professional development (CPD) course to public health teams in south west England since 2013.

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges, it’s also created opportunities to work in new and innovative ways. Since the start of the pandemic the Principles of Health Protection course, led by Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at the College of Medicine and Health, has gone from strength to strength. It’s a groundbreaking example of what the CPD team are achieving, and what is motivating them to do bolder things.

Responding to the pandemic

In March 2020, the CPD team rapidly moved most of its in-person courses online so it could continue to deliver high-quality training virtually for learners in the UK and beyond.

During this period the Principles of Health Protection programme grew significantly, extending its geographical reach to students from Cornwall to Orkney, focusing both on Master of Public Health students and public health teams from across the UK.

Demand has grown exponentially. From running one course per year for 25 practitioners, the programme now meets the needs of 150 practitioners and masters students each year.

feedback word cloud

Participant feedback: how did you find the course today?

Cecilia Mañosa Nyblon, Education and Skills Partnership Development Manager at Innovation Impact and Business in the College of Medicine and Health, explains: “Our CPD courses have the learner at the heart of everything we do. They are developed in collaboration with our academics, building on our research and education strengths. They often involve partnerships with the NHS, Health Education England and the third sector, including businesses and charities, to support the training needs of health care professionals. 

“Part of the key to our CPD success is our strong collaborative approach, working in partnership with academic leads to develop the curriculum, create bespoke virtual learning platforms to facilitate the teaching and learning, and provide support during the delivery sessions. It is vital we also listen and reflect on the learner experience and their feedback, and actively incorporate changes to continue to strengthen the course effectiveness.”

The administration of this course is the best I have ever taken part in. Information came out in excellent time, the team were knowledgeable and informative and had obviously planned the whole thing down to the last detail, they made the whole process easy – this is not the case on many other courses.   Course participant

Delivery, engagement and inspiration

As course leader, Dr Pankhania combines his broad and diverse international experience with a passion for teaching, making every session powerful and memorable.

He believes that for a course to develop and improve, “We must strive for excellence in practice, challenge, and review.”

Always dynamic in content, the course tackles key concepts in health protection including emerging threats, infection/outbreak control, timely interventions, immunisation and environmental incidents. It also addresses local, national and global challenges which can directly or indirectly impact how public health is delivered.

I think the most useful thing for me is that it pulled everything together so well and demonstrated the links across the huge area that is Health Protection. For want of a better phrase – it joined the dots!  Course participant

Dr Pankhania is keen to empower practitioners to raise the profile of public health, both internally within their teams and through their external facing work.

Packed with surprises, the course sometimes feels like a rollercoaster – at times the subject matter is difficult and challenging, with its focus on planetary health and the climate crisis – but no one wants to get off.

To symbolise the impact of climate change on public health, Dr Pankhania has commissioned a painting which now hangs on his wall. The elephant is named ‘Harambee’, which means ‘We Pull Together’ in Swahili. It symbolises that we are all connected to the Earth, and through collaboration we can foresee, plan, and address public health challenges and opportunities. After all, as this article in The Lancet argues, there can be no public health without planetary health.

'Harambee' painting

‘Harambee’ by Sophie Green

Next steps

The team’s ambition is to continue to listen, reflect and grow its CPD portfolio to support public health teams, along with other areas where Exeter is recognised for its research and education expertise.

Feedback from the past two years has been incredibly positive. Now the team is developing plans to give Principles of Health Protection participants opportunities to reconnect by fostering a community of practice. This will enable them to meet regularly online to discuss hot topics and share best practice.

“We want to do more than deliver a training course,” says Dr Pankhania. “We want to nurture future generations working in the broad field of public health and protect the population from harm.”


For more information please contact:


Cecilia Manosa NyblonDr Bharat PankhaniaDr Sally Flint
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