With the release of the 2017 National Adolescent & Youth Health Policy, the South African government and partners have committed to prioritise meeting the health needs of the country’s youth in supporting and assisting them as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Key to policy implementation is ensuring that staff involved with adolescent healthcare and well-being have the necessary capacity to implement policy programmes. This goal was given a major boost through the recent introduction of a short course for government and non-governmental organisation support staff, working at national, provincial and district levels, to implement the policy that targets young people aged 10 – 24 years. The course, which is offered by the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in UCT’s Health Sciences Faculty, is based on a short course run annually, for the past nine years in London, by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the World Health Organisation.
The tributes to the late Prof. Bongani Mayosi over the past month were consistent in describing his work as directed to serve and benefit people living in poverty. His concern was that diseases of the poor were not receiving enough attention by science and, as a cardiologist, he was committed to contributing to a better understanding of how cardiovascular diseases affect or manifest in those living in poverty. One field to which he made profound contributions was that of rheumatic heart disease – a “disease of poverty” brought on by an easy-to-treat strain of bacteria that affect especially children and young people who grow up in conditions of poverty. Prof. Mayosi’s legacy in this field today stretches from clinics on the Cape Town Flats to the African Union and beyond.
The gap between health research, policy and practice is an enduring challenge in the health system and is impeding efforts to achieve health for all. This has led to global interest in knowledge translation (KT), a field of research that includes examining how research-based knowledge is used (or not) in policy and practice. However, despite its increasingly prolific nature, there is little clarity on how KT functions, especially in African settings. Recognising the need for a more coordinated approach to closing the gap between research, policy and practice, the Western Cape Health Impact Assessment established a project in 2016 to improve how research-based knowledge informs provincial health policy. The initial objective of this project was informed by a study as part of a Masters dissertation in Public Health at UCT’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine (Health Policy and Systems Division).
A recent seminar in the Emerging Researcher Programme focused on community-engaged academic work. Engaged scholarship, adopted as UCT policy in 2012, refers to the utilisation of an academic’s scholarly and/or professional expertise for an intentional public purpose or benefit, which demonstrates engagement with external, non-academic constituencies. Such socially responsive work – whether research or teaching – has its challenges, along with great rewards; some are specific to the Cape Town context, others occur wherever engagement happens. The seminar considered some of these challenges and presented the UCT Knowledge Co-op as a resource to help student researchers and their supervisors deal with (at least some of) them.