The School of Public Health Research Day is our yearly get-together where more than 200 staff (both honorary and full time, of which 170 are full time) have the opportunity to see what their co-workers' and students' research is about. It is also an opportunity to invite our stakeholders, in particular government, but also colleagues, friends, collaborators, funders, and critics to see what work has been done or is underway. Unlike more formal conferences we value the presentation of work in progress as this is a rare opportunity for us to all engage as a School.
We had over 60 submissions for the programme today and obviously can only accommodate a few as oral presentations. We chose oral presentations to illustrate the range of issues we explore through research, the range of disciplines that fall within the public health umbrella, that give a platform for both our senior and more junior colleagues and to our students, our full time and honorary staff, our staff based in urban areas and those in rural areas, those who work in our prestigious research units and those who work for Gauteng Department of Health- all of whom make a valuable contribution to the School. But do not rob yourself of the opportunity to see all that we are doing - the posters of equally high quality allow us to present more of our work and please take time to read them.
The Schools is a conglomerate of skills - social scientists, economists, epidemiologists, doctors, nurses, statisticians, occupational health practitioners, policy experts, demographers, and the list goes on. You will see not only the influence of these different disciplines but more importantly how they combine to bring across disciplinary richness to our research methods and findings. We are a School with both a rural and urban research focus and this too is illustrated. But always our research aims to make a contribution to population health.
Today we present research that seeks to understand the drivers of health and disease: individual behaviour; the household you live in, be it rich or poor, if it is in an urban informal settlement or a rural area, if many people are migrants in that household, if there has been recent death in that household, what kind of community you live, where you work and what you are exposed to at work. All of these influence health and may be areas where we need to act to improve health or mitigate disease.
We have many presentations where routine data: births and deaths, laboratory data, health services data, are used to understand who gets what, where and why and tries to understand what we can do about it.
Much of our research is done with and for the health services. Here we try to understand some complex questions: what makes for high quality services, where are efficiency gains possible, how do we measure and reinforce good quality services, how do we treat and support our patients to improve health outcomes and service delivery, what can we learn from both public and private sector interventions and their partnerships. We also apply that critical approach to our own teaching programmes and look at the way in which our students experience our offerings and the impact of the teaching we do.
While exploring the above issues you will observe that many of the predestinations do it through the lens of the most important health issues facing this population; HIV, TB and chronic diseases.
It is not only the research you do that is important but also how and why you do it. The School of Public Health takes very seriously our relationship with the Department of Health. We have spent the last 3 years working with the Department of Health in Gauteng in defining the kind of challenges they face that research can assist in solving. Many research projects in the School are those defined with the province, done in the Province and presented to the Province. Partnership in research is a very important principle that we hold dear. We are delighted therefore to have representatives from the Department of Health here today from Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and the national Department of Health.
Thank you for coming, thank you for presenting your research and thank you to the members of the School who hold values that aim to make a positive difference to the health of South Africans, to the effective functioning of our health care system, and to building a cadre of graduates who will continue this tradition into the future.
Professor Sharon Fonn
WITS School of Public Health