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Health Communication Research Unit (HCRU)

The Health Communication Research Unit (HCRU) is a research group concerned with understanding the unique challenges of cultural and linguistic diversity in health and community care contexts. Over the past two decades, the HCRU has engaged with clinical and community sites and developed research-based recommendations and communication skills training programmes to improve the quality of care.   

Our research focuses on health care communication, a fledgling field in South Africa that uses methods from the social sciences and linguistics to study communication and care variables in diverse contexts. This work is interdisciplinary, drawing from fields such as applied linguistics, the social sciences, public health and bioethics.

We believe that at the interface of humanities and health lies the solution to many of the problems we face in this country as we tackle its devastating diseases and their social consequences. At the same time, there is a need for curriculum review and transformation of practices and research methods through incorporating innovative, community based, participatory approaches.

The challenges brought about by diversity are not unique to our context, and South Africa has much to offer the rest of the world in this regard. Ironically, in our setting, because systems of care are often underdeveloped or even malfunctional, because the monitoring of such systems may be erratic, and because of profound resource limitations imposed by the needs of a developing country, these challenges have created opportunities for creativity, resourcefulness and adaptation.

For recent developments see our recent annual reports: 



  • Megan Scott -Communicating Genetic Risk & Uncertainty in a South African Healthcare Context.  
  • Johanna Beukes -Managing conflict in emergency settings’. Johanni’s project aims to explore conflict between callers and call-takers in emergency calls 


  • Kelly Hugill - An interactional analysis of communication between caregivers and audiologists in paediatric cochlear implant appointments in South Africa 
  • Micaela Stonestreet - An interactional analysis of communication between adult patients and audiologists about tinnitus  
  • Katlego Mogapi - The healthcare experiences of African immigrants caring for a child with a disability in Johannesburg 
  • Lisa MillsExperiences of perceived stigma amongst healthcare workers involved in terminations of pregnancy  
  • Tarique VariavaA pilot study of the mental health status of HIV positive adolescents 


  • Angelica Iacovitti - A patient and caregiver perspective on the multidisciplinary team (MDT) in stroke rehabilitation 
  • Nicole TempletonAn exploration of parent experiences of talking to their child about complex medical conditions and procedures in the context of kidney disease 
  • Carmen KifouaniAudiology students’ practices and perspectives of their clinical communication skills when conducting a case history interview during an initial consultation  
  • Ayanda Khala (Hons 2006) – Mandela Rhodes scholar; performance studies Lecturer, UKZN 
  • Caitlin Longman (MA 2013) – MA graduate, Karolinska Institute
  • Les Nkosi (MA 2013) – started LNH-Rehumanising, a behaviour change communications agency 
  • Tshoki Kobue (MSc Med 2013) – Manager, Pfizer 
  • Motlatso Mlambo (PhD 2014) – Researcher, Wits Dept of Family Medicine 
  • Sheryl Neel (MA (Psych) 2014) - PhD student, Wits Psychology 
  • Harriet Etheredge (PhD 2015) – Researcher, Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre; Mail & Guardian’s 200 YSA in 2016 
  • Tshegofatso Seabi (NRF intern 2015) – PhD student, Wits School of Public Health 
  • Sonia Mbowa (NRF intern 2016) – MA (Res Psych) graduate, Wits; Researcher, Wits/MRC Developmental Pathways Research Unit 
  • Victoria Hume (MA 2017) – Director, UK’s Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance; Research Associate, WISER 
  • Zamokuhle Thwala (MA (Psych) 2018) – Researcher, Wits/MRC Developmental Pathways Research Unit 
  • Christina Kourie (MA 2019) - SANTHE research fellow