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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Effective Use of Handouts in the Teaching of Public Health Administration

Author(s): M.B. Soudarssanane

Vol. 31, No. 4 (2006-10 - 2006-12)

M.B. Soudarssanane


Teaching preventive medicine is different from that on clinical subjects, wherein students readily link the subject with their career. Areas like ‘Public Health Administration (PHA)’ appear farthest from clinics requirements, and newer teaching methods are needed. At department of P&SM, JIPMER, Pondicherry, teaching of PHA was streamlined since 7-8 years. Apart from lecture-discussions and newer topics like health economics, health team approach; problem-solving discussion (for health team approach), direct field data (for health economics), group discussions (for national health policy, primary health care) – one major modification (based on success of newer methods in other topics)1,3 was use of handouts as teaching tool in every session on PHA, for five batches between 1997-2005.


As reported earlier2, handouts were planned well ahead so that the final materials were ready at least a fortnight before every session. Handouts were prepared for those areas in PHA, where supplementation of textbook4 was essential; 90% of handout contents were from “must know” category, and 10% “desirable to know”. Three types were used: (a) Detailed prose versions: For sessions 1 (Introductory), 2 to 4 (Organization/Functions of Health Care Delivery System in India), and 9 and 10 (Health Team Concept) (b) Summarized versions: For sessions 5 and 6 (National Health Policy, National Population Policy), 11 and 12 (Health Economics) and© Points/Sub-points: For sessions 7 and 8 (Primary Health Care). Table I gives the contents of these handouts.

Actual usage of handouts: (a) Making students use the handouts during the sessions: Points given in handouts were actively used in discussion by raising questions or giving problem based situations; so that students “utilized” handouts during discussions. Thus, students listed the steps in planning, implementation and evaluation of a health program and concurrently verified from handouts. Similarly discussions on job description on health functionaries, NHP and PHC were conducted using points in handouts as stimulators. For discussion of Health Team Concepts, students presented “problem solving situation” (identifying reasons for poor immunization coverage and ways of full coverage); they found it handy to follow/discuss their peerpresentation, as these major points were detailed in handouts. (b) Strengthening of public health concepts via cartoonsmade easy by handouts: Often we used cartoons (also given as handouts) to explain public health concepts, as these are powerful in internalizing. (c) Group discussion facilitated by handouts: Points given in summarized version handouts on NHP/NPP were used as triggers. Students identified the connected sub-points – why a particular idea finds mention in NHP/NPP, what steps are required in implementation of a given policy, etc. Students were provided actual study data on health economics, from the department’s health centers (list of drugs used, amount/cost of each drug, percentage/ cumulative percentage cost of drugs, and classification of drugs used in terms of their functional requirements), and encouraged into group discussion; thus concepts of inventory control, ABC/VED analysis were derived5. (d) Alternative class methods by handouts: The discussion on PHC was conducted as follows. In the 1st session students identified the essential components of PHC and planned steps for their implementation. Since classes on PHC are for 7th semester – by which time students had learnt PSM for 6 semesters – it was rightly expected they would identify points on PHC. This gives them confidence in rising to a learning occasion. In the 2nd session, the PHC theory (on concepts, principles and components) was discussed, reminding the students’ correct flow of thoughts earlier. Handouts for this session contained verbatim the same text used in the slides. (e) Timing of the handouts: Since students may forget to bring handouts to the class (if provided earlier, initially handouts were given just before the start of every session – though this denies them time to go through the next before the session. However, for the second batch all handouts were given on the first day of the course – as a trial – as a booklet. Encouragingly, students were prompt in bringing handouts every session. Hence, for the next batches, the same method was followed.

Student’s feedback: Of the total 339 students, 304 gave their feedback (anonymous). Some salient responses (verbatim): 1. Handouts made teaching more practical 2. Though subject is not that interesting, we enjoyed your classes; of course not to forget the innovative handouts 3. Giving handouts in your classes is unique; we concentrate better 4. Handouts, a nice idea, helped to guide students during classes 5. Best part of class were comprehensive/very good handouts 6. Handouts were as helpful as classes 7. Handouts, a novel approach, gave abundant information. There were no negative comments.

Table I. Details of Handout in Public Health Administration.

Session/Topics Contents No. of Pages
1. Introduction to Health Management
Planning, Implementation, Evaluation
Definition & Functions of Management 3
2-4. Organization/Functions of Health
of Health Care System
Organization Ladder, Job descriptions
MO, HA (M/F), HW (M/F), VHG, TBA
5. National Health Policy Abstracted NHP 4
6. National Population Policy Abstracted NPP 4**
7-8. Primary Health Care
& Health for all
Definitions, Components, Principles of
PH Care, Declaration of Alma Ata
9-10. Health Team Approach
Team Activities, Controlling and Assessing Work
Health Team Concept, Leading/Organizing Health 6
11,12. Health Economics
Cost-benefit/Cost-effective Analysis
Drug Inventory Control, ABC/VED, 6
*The handouts for Job descriptions of Health functionaries were ratained till 2001, and removed after they were including in the textbook in its 16th edition.
**Including after 2001.


  1. Soudarssanane MB, Rotti SB, Premarajan. Teaching Acute Respiratory Infections Using Low Cost Aids. Medical Teacher. 1991; 3(4): 369-70.
  2. Soudarssanane MB, Singh MC, Rotti SB, Srinivasa DK. Handouts for Undergraduate Teaching – Practical Tips. Ind J Comm Med. July-Sept 1993; 18(3): 106-9.
  3. Soudarssanane MB, Singh MC. Teaching Epidemiology of ADD to Undergraduates – A new approach. Ind J Pediatr. 1994; 61: 277-80.
  4. Park K: Text Book of Preventive and Social Medicine. Pb Banarsidas Bhanot, Jabalpur 18th Edition, 2005.
  5. Soudarssanane MB. Drug Inventory Control as a method to teach Health Economics. Ind J Comm Med. Apr-Jun 1997; 22(2): 63-69.

Professor and Head of Preventive and Social Medicine,
Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research
Email: [email protected]
Received: 07.06.05

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