My vision for PHASA as Executive Member is to help the organisation develop and set appropriate and strategic priorities in South African public health. This priority-setting should happen in support of two broad developments. Firstly, there needs to be significant systems strengthening if the introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme is to be successful. Second, given South Africa’s failures regarding the Millennium Development Goals, it is imperative that we mobilise and strategize our efforts collectively towards better performing in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs present unique opportunities with which to address public health issues, challenges both traditionally well-supported (HIV, maternal health, TB) and not so well supported (mental health). The SDG imperative of universal health coverage also feeds into the importance of the NHI. PHASA needs to provide robust, well-thought through opinions and strategic direction to these two developments in the form of position papers on key South African health challenges, and how we might overcome them.
I am a researcher affiliated with the Centre for Health Systems Research & Development at the University of the Free State. Having been involved in a range of public health research projects, I am especially interested in health systems projects that focus on the provision of care to disadvantaged populations in rural areas, particularly people suffering from mental illness. In this respect I have been part of the creation of an advocacy pressure group, led by the South African Society of Psychiatry. I am also involved in research that focuses on tuberculosis prevention in public health facilities, the governance of health care, and the promotion of integrated care models. I am adept in a range of research skills, having published articles applying quantitative, qualitative and evaluation methodologies. I strongly believe in an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to public health, given my background in multiple social science disciplines. I started out in criminology – focusing on school-based violence. I studied monitoring and evaluation methods, after moving towards health governance (political science) and medical sociology.
Currently I am pursuing doctoral studies that focus on the governance of collaborative mental health care in South Africa, drawing from social network analyses and different qualitative methodologies.
In this respect I am affiliated with the Health and Demographic Research group in the Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Belgium, as well as with the Department of Political Science, Stellenbosch University. I primarily reside in Bloemfontein, though I often travel to Ghent and Stellenbosch to maintain professional research networks. Additionally, I spend a significant amount of time in the field, where I am fortunate to experience health system dynamics first-hand. My experiences in rural clinics in areas such as those in Lusikisiki, Olifantshoek, and Tiger River have significantly influenced the way in which I approach public health challenges.
I am passionate about public health, and firmly believe in the importance of strong ties between government and non-government sectors, in order to make optimal use of South Africa’s limited resources. In this way, I am constantly looking for opportunities that can provide a platform on which to further this ideal. Cross-cutting initiatives such as PHASA’s annual conference, as well as the special interest groups, are important cogs in the health system reform machinery, especially in South Africa’s current reforms towards universal health care coverage.
Recently I have been awarded a place in the Emerging Voices for Global Health, a working group within the Health Systems Global organisation. In this vein, I will attend the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Vancouver, Canada, where I will discuss my research on assessing the Integrated School Health Programme of South Africa’s Primary Healthcare Re-engineering initiative.
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