Public health regulator orders fresh vetting for varsities

A newly-established professional regulatory body for public health officers has ordered universities to seek fresh approval to continue offering courses in public health which was hitherto unregulated.

The Public Health Officers and Technicians Council has warned universities against mounting any new public health programmes without seeking its clearance.

The council, officially inaugurated on Tuesday by Health minister James Macharia, is mandated to regulate the teaching and practice of public health courses in Kenya by accrediting universities and licensing public health experts.

“Only accredited institutions will be allowed to train public health officers. Those that are already training will be vetted afresh but those that want to offer the courses have to wait for accreditation,” said Samuel Muthinji, vice-chairman at the council.

“Public health graduates will now sit for written exams, as opposed to the previous oral exams, to get a practising licence.”

The new body is established under the Public Health Officers Act, 2013.

The council comes at a time when a Cabinet-backed Bill has proposed that the responsibility of sanctioning degree courses be solely given to the Commission for University Education, effectively locking out professional associations from accrediting university courses.

Mr Muthinji said 10 universities have so far applied for accreditation to offer public health and environmental health courses.

The council will evaluate the curriculum, facilities and staff at universities and colleges before allowing them to offer degree and diploma courses.

The length of degree courses must be four years and a further mandatory one-year internship after which graduates will sit for a licence exam and will be required to take continuous professional courses to keep up with changes in the dynamic field.