|Prof Angela Mathee heads the Medical Research Council's Environment & Health Research Unit and her main research interests are exposure to lead amongst South African children and urban housing and health.|
I work in the field of environmental epidemiology, and I have particular interests in childhood lead poisoning, and urbanization and health.
Having not had the benefit of vocational guidance at school, for years I drifted from one job or field to another – nursing, midwifery, food microbiology, biochemistry. I found the field of environmental epidemiology purely by chance, but knew quite early on that it was right for me.
I was instrumental in raising awareness and facilitating the promulgation of legislation to control the use of lead in paint in South Africa. These measures will afford protection to young South Africans for years to come.
There are many; public health stands on the shoulders of many strong South African women, for whom I have great admiration. However, two decades ago Dr Yasmin von Schirnding introduced me to environmental epidemiology, and I will always be grateful to her for that.
There is so much to be done – just make a start.
Fulfilling careers that make a difference to the quality of life of our people.
I am working on a variety of projects, including the ingestion of non-food substances (such as soil) in pregnant women, climate change, acid mine drainage, hookah pipe smoking, as well as a range of research projects on lead exposure and health.
I would like to see much greater collaboration at the early planning phase between the health sector and sectors not directly involved in health, but that play incredibly powerful roles in the determination of public health, such as treasury, planning, housing, transport, water, sanitation etc. This is critical for primary prevention of ill health.
Though widely agreed to be fundamentally important for public health, inter-sectoral action remains a challenge that public health workers are struggling with around the world. To be successful I believe we need nothing less than a complete re-orientation of the way we as a society think and plan.
With lots of juggling and guilt – it is a huge balancing act, and I am never sure that I am getting the balance right!
I love visiting South Africa’s national parks, I have a passion for photography, and have recently been inspired to take up jogging, which I am surprised to find that I am thoroughly enjoying.
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