Social Aspects of Public Health

Embracing Positive Living For Our People


SAPH is a multi-disciplinary team of researchers trained in various social sciences disciplines and public health, many of whom hold doctorate degrees.  We collaborate with other research organisations and universities in South Africa, throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, and globally who are engaged in similar work. SAPH also provides some technical assistance and advice to the government, South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), civil society and donors/research grant makers within South Africa, throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, and also globally through its collaborating status with the Global HIV Prevention Working Group and other international organisations. SAPH also provides excellent experiential training opportunities for young or novice researchers.

As a multi-disciplinary team we have proven strengths and expertise in:

  • Population development analysis on factors influencing the state of the African population
  • Public health approaches and risky lifestyles (alcohol, tobacco, stress, obesity, physical inactivity and work-family stressors)
  • Nutritional disorders and food insecurity dynamics Analysis of health care access and health seeking behaviours
  • Social epidemiology
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping of health facilities and human resources by district in South Africa
  • Forecasting models to provide evidence for policy formulation on individual and community security/development and health
  • Maternal and child health surveillance and morbidity and mortality.

Our major national surveys also include the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES), Maternal and child mortality surveillance, and the Agricultural Research and Development Survey.


SAPH has conducted many groundbreaking studies on, among others, the following topics:

  • National HIV surveillance including HIV incidence both in the general population as well as in different sectors of the economy such as among educators and health workers in the public sector 
  • Social and behavioural prevention intervention research on HIV, STIs and TB including reducing the impact of alcohol abuse, HIVAIDS-related stigma, and gender-based violence and using different models of HIV counselling and testing (HCT)
  • Various interventions to mitigate the impact of HIV on orphans and vulnerable children 
  • Monitoring and impact evaluations of national HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB programmes including aspects of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV/AIDS and STIs in South Africa. We have also played a major role in undertaking the first Know-Your-Epidemic and Know-Your-Response (KYR) analysis on HIV/AIDS in South Africa on behalf of SANAC
  • Operational and implementation research on evidence-based interventions such as Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT), medical male circumcision, home-and clinic based HCT including couples testing, HIV and STIs prevention among people who are HIVpositive including both men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex workers, and prevention of medical transmission of TB.

Our Centre for the Study of the Social and Environmental Determinants of Nutrition (CSSEDN) focuses on research which includes non-communicable diseases and food security.  Specific research themes covered:

  • Life course, lifestyles and health
  • Demographic profile of South Africa
  • Infant, child and maternal health including reproductive health
  • Family and child protection strategies
  • Population health including malaria
  • Determinants of health: smoking, alcohol, stress, drugs, physical activity/fitness and other social factors
  • Social medicine and community health
  • Environmental health
  • Mental health
  • Health systems
  • Gender analysis is integrated throughout the research themes.

A UNAIDS Collaborating Centre on HIV Prevention Research and Policy