Open Access Research article

Developing a health and human rights training program for french speaking Africa: lessons learned, from needs assessment to a pilot program

Philippe Chastonay1, Axel Max Klohn1, Véronique Zesiger1, Franziska Freigburghaus2 and Emmanuel Kabengele Mpinga13*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Department of Community Health and Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

2 Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Bern, Switzerland

3 Swiss School of Public Health plus, Zurich, Switzerland

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2009, 9:19  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-19

Published: 24 August 2009



The importance of human rights education has widely been recognized as one of the strategies for their protection and promotion of health. Yet training programs have not always taken into account neither local needs, nor public health relevance, nor pedagogical efficacy.

The objectives of our study were to assess, in a participative way, educational needs in the field of health and human rights among potential trainees in six French-speaking African countries and to test the feasibility of a training program through a pilot test. Ultimately the project aims to implement a health and human rights training program most appropriate to the African context.


Needs assessment was done according to four approaches: Revue of available data on health and human rights in the targeted countries; Country visits by one of the authors meeting key institutions; Focus group discussions with key-informants in each country; A questionnaire-based study targeting health professionals and human rights activists.

Pilot training program: an interactive e-learning pilot program was developed integrating training needs expressed by partner institutions and potential trainees.


Needs assessment showed high public health and human rights challenges that the target countries have to face. It also showed precise demands of partner institutions in regard to a health and human rights training program. It further allowed defining training objectives and core competencies useful to potential employers and future students as well as specific training contents.

A pilot program allowed testing the motivation of students, the feasibility of an interactive educational approach and identifying potential difficulties.


In combining various approaches our study was able to show that training needs concentrate around tools allowing the identification of basic human rights violations in the health system, the analysis of their causes and coordinated responses through specific intervention projects.