A decade of working together and strengthening partnerships across the globe was celebrated at the 10th WBCA Colloquium held at Wits last week. The WBCA is a collaboration between Wits, Brown, Colorado, and the African Population and Health Research Centre based in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Colloquium, which was inaugurated in 2003, aims to recognise and build on a decade of productive collaboration in health and population research and academic training between the four institutions.
Through the collaboration, partnerships in public and population health research and training have grown and strengthened, creating an international network of scholars based on the principle of “mutuality”.
Prof. Yunus Ballim, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic at Wits, praised the consortium for the outstanding work that they had undertaken in the last ten years and particularly their contribution to consolidating a knowledge hub for rural development.
“Not only is their work evidence-based for policy development, but also knowledge-based for added value. Humans need more than a graph as an interpretation of reality, and the WBCA collaboration works on the ground to serve that purpose for rural development,” said Ballim.
Prof. Kathleen Kahn from the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) added that the WBCA collaboration has been beneficial for all four institutions.
“This ‘mutuality’, as we call it, is key to the sustainability of joint research and training ventures. All institutions have benefited, irrespective of whether they are located in the North or the South. Also unusual to this collaboration has been an inclusive approach, involving students and junior staff, as well as senior academics and institutional heads, and involving administrative as well as academic and teaching staff”.
During the three days, the delegates took stock of work underway, explored new opportunities for cutting-edge research, and considered novel organisational models and partnerships that take account of a changing environment.
The 10th Colloquium, coinciding with the Wits90 celebrations, consisted of a dynamic programme of networking sessions, scientific and methodological presentations, and roundtable discussions.
One of the topics that were tackled was how the Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) would fit into the six new 21st Century prestigious, multidisciplinary research institutes being established at Wits.
Prof. Belinda Bozzoli, Senior Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, delivered a presentation about the envisioned Development: Population, Health and Society Institute.
“This Institute is still being conceptualised but we have an urban conglomeration of enormous social, cultural, political, health and other complexities, which can form the strategic roots of this Institute. The hub of international research networks exploring poverty, disease, migration, family and health in rural and urban settings, will inform how we conceptualise this Institute,” said Bozzoli.
The WBCA group converges annually to advance ongoing research, plan for the future, provide opportunity for new collaborations, strengthen advanced academic training in demography and population studies in sub-Saharan Africa, and extend and strengthen its academic partnerships.
Listen to Prof. Bozzoli’s presentation here.