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University of the Witwatersrand

Country: South Africa
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27 Projects, page 1 of 6
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: MR/V005790/1
    Funder Contribution: 2,957,400 GBP
    Partners: University of the Witwatersrand

    Throughout the world the numbers of people with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, are increasing. The risk of developing diabetes is associated with being poorly nourished as a child then becoming obese later in life, being inactive, having a poor-quality diet, as well as influenced by genetic inheritance and poor intra-uterine growth. Low- and middle-income countries, like South Africa, have fast-growing numbers with NCDs yet health systems are struggling to cope with the ongoing burden of infectious disease (including HIV/AIDS and TB). We have shown that in rural and urban South Africa a third or more young women are either overweight or obese by 20 years of age; while the problem of stunted growth is stubbornly persistent. Five to eight percent of 7 to 15 year olds already show early warning signs for the development of diabetes. To combat an increasing prevalence of NCDs, it has been suggested that improving adolescent nutritional status may be a successful strategy, and that developing and evaluating pre-pregnancy interventions that promote nutrition and healthy behaviours in poor communities where childbearing tends to start at a younger age, may be part of the solution. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region worldwide where the number of adolescents is predicted to grow, but it also faces a poor adolescent health profile. To-date, we are unclear about how best to intervene to improve the nutritional status of adolescents in low- or middle-income countries. Our extensive formative and pilot trial research, has informed the development of an intervention targeting adolescent girls who reflect the double burden of malnutrition. The trial will enrol 1248 underweight or overweight/obese girls aged 14-19y from two-suitable settings in South Africa, one rural and one urban, using age- and sex-appropriate cut-offs. After baseline assessment and randomisation, trial participants will be reassessed after at least 18 months follow-up. If a participant becomes pregnant in this follow-up period, the reassessment will be carried out early in her pregnancy (<18weeks), and additional measures and antenatal clinic data will be collected during the pregnancy and from the infant at birth. The trial will include process and economic evaluations. This approach will allow us to assess the effects of our intervention - and whether there are grounds for a major expansion (scale-up). The trial will employ and train community health workers (CHWs) to work with adolescents and their primary caregiver to address sub-optimal nutrition by: (i) promoting healthy behaviours and improving diets; (ii) providing a multi-micronutrient supplement to combat deficiencies, particularly anaemia; (iii) providing the primary caregiver with a conditional cash transfer to encourage and enable better household dietary diversity within the context of food insecurity and (iv) supporting adolescent girls who become pregnant to use antenatal care services earlier in their pregnancies and more frequently. CHWs will be trained in 'Healthy Conversation Skills', a set of skills to support behaviour change specifically developed and tested for use with socioeconomically disadvantaged women to improve their confidence so that they can achieve their health goals. CHWs will apply these skills in the rural and urban sites over the trial period, building relationships with adolescents and their families to encourage healthier adolescent lifestyles. The intervention is flexible and will focus on the most challenging areas for each participant. Health literacy seeks to increase adolescent access to health information, and develop their ability to use this information effectively. Adolescents who become pregnant will be further supported by CHWs to access and attend antenatal services, facilitate their caregiver's involvement, and reinforce optimal individual health during pregnancy.

  • Funder: SNSF Project Code: 120889
    Funder Contribution: 22,000
    Partners: University of the Witwatersrand
  • Funder: SNSF Project Code: 208531
    Funder Contribution: 10,600
    Partners: University of the Witwatersrand
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: MR/P021174/1
    Funder Contribution: 150,033 GBP
    Partners: University of the Witwatersrand

    Throughout the world the numbers of people with non-communicable (NCDs) diseases, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, are increasing. The risk of developing diabetes is associated with being poorly nourished as a child and then becoming obese later in life, being inactive, having a poor quality diet, as well as with genetic inheritance and poor growth in the womb. Low- and middle-income countries, like South Africa, have particularly fast-growing numbers of people with NCDs and have health systems already struggling to manage the burden of infectious diseases. We have shown that in rural South Africa a third of girls have growth faltering at one year of age, and a third of adolescents and young women are overweight or obese by 20 years of age. Five percent of 7 to 15 year olds already show early warning signs for the development of diabetes. To combat the problem of an increasing prevalence of NCDs, it has been suggested that improving adolescent nutritional status may be a successful strategy, and that developing and evaluating pre-pregnancy interventions that promote healthy behaviours in poor communities where childbearing tends to start at a younger age, may be part of the solution. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region worldwide where the number of adolescents is predicted to grow, but it also has the worst adolescent health profile. To date, we are still unclear about how best to intervene to improve nutritional status in adolescents in low- or middle-income countries. Our extensive research over the last five years, has informed the development of an intervention targeting adolescent girls and boys. It will employ trained adolescent-focused community health workers (AHWs) to work with adolescents to address both underweight and obesity by: (i) promoting healthy behaviours and increasing their use of adolescent health services; (ii) encouraging better caregiver and friend support and increasing opportunities in the community to become more healthy; and (iii) supporting adolescent girls who become pregnant to use antenatal health services earlier in their pregnancies and more frequently. This intervention aims to identify and reduce NCD risk in adolescents, and increase their use of health services through supporting behaviour change. AHWs will be trained in 'Healthy Conversation Skills', a set of skills to support behaviour change specifically developed and tested for use with socioeconomically disadvantaged women to improve their confidence that they can achieve their health goals. AHWs will use these skills as the basis for their work in rural SA villages over two years, building relationships with adolescents and their families to encourage social support for healthier adolescent lifestyles. The intervention is flexible in its approach and will focus on the most relevant area of difficulty for each participant. AHWs will also involve their adolescent peer group in the village to promote health literacy. Health literacy will both increase adolescent access to health information and develop their ability to use this information effectively. AHWs will mobilise village community leaders to create greater opportunities to promote and support healthier lifestyles. Adolescents who become pregnant will be further supported by AHWs to access and regularly attend antenatal services, facilitate caregiver involvement, and reinforce optimal individual health (including weight gain) during pregnancy. Through these interventions we aim to reduce the incidence of low of high birthweight in the infants, as these have been associated with diabetes risk in later life. The proposed development grant will enable us to complete a feasibility and pilot study in two villages to provide critical data to inform both the design and implementation of the trial.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: MC_PC_16021
    Funder Contribution: 281,170 GBP
    Partners: University of the Witwatersrand

    Delivery of diagnostic services that serve the population well depends upon the availability of high quality diagnostic tests and of laboratory systems that are able to prioritise efforts in regions of particular need and respond to changes in the distribution of that need. South Africa has pioneered widespread introduction of a new test for tuberculosis (TB) called Xpert MTB/RIF which runs on a platform called Genexpert that has capability both for connectivity to a central laboratory facility and for testing for things other than just TB. This means that the National Health Laboratory Service is able to identify where there are increases in people being diagnosed with TB, and potentially also follow trends in other infectious diseases such as HIV. In addition, this network provides the opportunity to test the performance of new and improved tests for infectious diseases, including TB, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.