The origin of the Institute goes back as far as 1977 when Mr. R. Salas, the Executive Director of UNFPA was looking for a Training Centre for the region of sub-Saharan Africa. He was impressed with the progress made by Mauritius in reducing its fertility rate through well-organised family planning by governmental and non-governmental organisations. Mauritius situated not far from the African mainland, politically stable and bilingual (English & French) was chosen as the ideal location for this Regional Training Centre. In 1980, the building situated near the SSRN Hospital in Pamplemousses housing the dormitory for nurses in training was identified as the project site. The infrastructure was modified and converted into a training centre for health personnel.
In 1982, teaching activities started with a series of courses in Family Health given twice a year in English & French for international and national participants. Subsequently, the course content of the training programme was constantly monitored, reviewed and updated in order to reflect the changing priorities of the region. The project is now known as 'Training of Trainers Course for Reproductive Health, with emphasis in Family Planning'. As at December 2001 more than 1,000 participants from countries of sub-Saharan Africa had completed their training. In 1989, an important modification was brought in the status of the Regional Training Centre, with a view to enlarge its training and research capabilities.
In the early 80s, the Ministry of Health felt that there was a need for the Ministry to provide systematic training and continuing education for its health personnel. At the Ministry of Health's request, Professor Atam Prakash from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences came to Mauritius in October 1980 as a WHO short term consultant to advise on the training needs of the health personnel generally and on how to improve training programmes. He recommended the setting up of an Institute of Health Science. In 1983, Prof. B. Osuntokun, another WHO short-term consultant also came to Mauritius to advise on training needs for the health personnel and, also recommended the setting up of an Institute of Health Science.
Another milestone in the development of the Institute was reached in December 1987, when the Ministry of Health with the financial and technical support of the Australian International Development Agency (AIDAB), decided to implement a pilot project at the Lady Ramgoolam Health Centre, for the provision of a community-based Primary Health Care within an integrated health delivery system. The second phase of the co-operation programme with AIDAB, consisted in the extension of the experiences and practices developed at the Lady Ramgoolam Health Centre to all other Health Centres of the country, through in-service training of health centre personnel and the setting up of an Institute to undertake the relevant training and research activities.