The Community Based Education and Research Services (COBERS) Programme of Makerere University, College of Health Sciences is a Programme that involves the exposure of medical students to the community for the purpose of Research and Project implementation programs. It is beneficial to both the students and the community. Advantages to the students include developing leadership skills and active learning to solve real-life problems. The community is made aware of their health problems through a community diagnosis and subsequent interventions enable them to overcome some of these problems.
The Programme involves visiting the community in three phases over 3 years. Year 1 involves community entry, Year 2 involves a community diagnosis. Based on a prevailing health problem discovered during this period, a project proposal is designed and implemented in year 3. The community is involved in all phases.
The Programme is currently running in the 3 major medical schools in Uganda, Makerere, Gulu and Mbarara Universities.
The impact of Community based education at individual basis is yet to be studied but in general it has led to an increase in the number of medical doctors working in rural settings due to the prior exposure to rural settings. It has also led to the development of research questions outside the academic curriculum thus introducing medical students to research early in their careers. Medical students gain experience in applied medicine through public health projects.
Some of the challenges in effective Community Based education include; insufficient funding to facilitate the supervisors, lack of accommodation for students, limited contact time between students and faculty and also an already crowded medical curriculum such that less time is allocated for community based training.
Community based Education allows communities to actively participate in health promotion projects and skills undergraduate medical students in community engagement.