CHP awarded DST/NRF Research Chair

14 February 2012

The Department of Science and Technology has awarded the Centre for Health Policy a Chair in Health Policy and Systems, hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand and administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

A total of 60 new chairs were allocated within the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) programme following a highly competitive submission process which saw 406 applications considered from 22 universities. The DST/NRF Chair to CHP for Health Policy and Systems research is one of three new chairs awarded to Wits.

This prestigious award strives to address the crisis of brain drain in South African universities. CHP’s Chair in Health Policy and Systems Research will lead a programme of high quality research to build capacity in the field which is rapidly emerging as one of the most dynamic and complex areas of health research due to its potential to improve health systems performance and population outcomes.

“The five-year research portfolio associated with this chair will focus on research to ensure universal access (also referred to as universal coverage) to quality care for all South Africans. This is necessary to strengthen the public health system’s ability to effectively and efficiently use resources, while increasing the production of skilled health workers,” explained Dr Jane Goudge, director of CHP.

“Much preliminary work needs to be done to improve the public health sector to a point where it is a ‘a provider of choice’ for middle class South Africans, leading to a higher level of cross subsidization from the healthy and wealthy to the sick and the poor," she said.

The Chair of HSPR will provide new knowledge and guidance on how best to design and implement the reforms necessary for a well functioning health system. The research is likely to examine questions such as:

health financing(e.g. “How to strengthen financial planning and monitoring systems to ensure appropriate use of resources”; “How to enable strategic purchasing from both public and private providers to promote quality service provision and cost containment”);
human resources(e.g. “Which staffing models are the most effective in strengthening primary health care”; “What systemic reform is required to ensure the effectiveness of the new cadre of outreach and community workers”);
leadership and governance(“How to improve governance and accountability throughout the system, particularly the hospital and district system, to ensure responsiveness to the population’s needs”; “How to ensure effective implementation of new financing, governance and human resource policies that is responsive to local level differences across the country”);
Access(e.g. “What implementation strategies are required to scale up the provision of chronic care, and to cope with the increasing numbers of chronic patients”; “How to strengthen maternal care close to the community while improving the referral linkages to higher levels of care to ensure complicated cases can be cared for effectively”).

Dr Goudge explained the research would be designed with input from a range of stakeholders and use a variety of research methods. The programme will also be strengthened by collaboration with five other institutions, namely the Health Economics Unit at the University of Cape Town, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine working with the University of Cape Town, School of Public Health at the University of the Western Cape; The School of Public management and Development at Wits University; and the Health Systems Research Unit at the Medical Research Council.

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