News Roundup

News Roundup

  • Insights into hypertension among the elderly
  • HSRC researcher wins coveted fellowship
  • Cofimvaba Schools Technology Project: from learning to best policy
  • Perspectives on early childhood development
  • New@HSRC

Insights into hypertension among the elderly

Analysis of the data from a study commissioned by the World Health Organisation revealed high rates of hypertension among South African adults in the 50 years and older age group. This puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease, reports Professor Karl Peltzer, director of the HIV/Aids, STIs and TB research programme at HSRC.

The percentages of hypertensive subjects who were aware, treated and controlled was very low. This data underscores the urgent need to strengthen public health education and blood pressure monitoring systems to better manage hypertension among older adults in South Africa, Peltzer says.

Little attention has been given to hypertension and associated factors among older adults in our continent. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the prevalence and associated factors of hypertension in a national sample of older South Africans and formed part of a much larger study, the Study of Global Ageing and Adults Health (SAGE), in 2008. More than 3 800 older adults took part in the study that also looked at sociodemographic characteristics, health variables, and anthropometric (the measurement of the size and proportions of the human body) and blood pressure measurements.

The results showed that the prevalence of hypertension in the sample population was 77,3% (male 74,4%, female 79,6%). The rate of awareness was 38,1%, while 32,7% received treatment and only 17,1% had their hypertension under control. The results also revealed that the prevalence of hypertension was high among the coloured population, especially with those who had a stroke, or were overweight or obese. An interesting finding was that hypertension was not associated with alcohol use.

The SAGE report is available on www.hsrc.ac.za. The full article appeared in the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa, Vol 24, No 3, April 2013.

HSRC researcher wins coveted fellowship

A feature of the fellowship programme is that all projects must be in the humanities, defined by the study of history, language and culture, and by qualitative approaches in research.

Dr. Godwin Onuoha, an African research fellow and senior research specialist in the Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery programme, was awarded the prestigious African Humanities Program (AHP) fellowship to the value of $18 000 for early career post-doctoral work related to his PhD thesis. The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) awards this fellowship in its annual competition. A feature of the fellowship programme is that all projects must be in the humanities, defined by the study of history, language and culture, and by qualitative approaches in research.

Godwin’s project focuses on the political economy of memory and contested narratives of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. His research aims to show how the neo-Biafran movement in southern Nigeria is appropriating various kinds of memory to shape its cause; namely a secession from the Nigerian state.
The critical task of the study is to investigate and question the notion of the value and meaning of the role of citizens, and to open up new views on the connection between self-determination and violence in the nation state project in Africa. His research offers a new perspective on the politics of memory by reflecting on the merging of memory production and political economy concerns. His application strongly motivates for new insights into memory studies in Africa. “There tended to be a concentration on accounting for past violence but more recently, on reconciling divided populations in a nation-building effort,” Onuoha says.

Cofimvaba Schools Technology Project: from learning to best policy

DST commissioned the HSRC to do the monitoring and evaluation of the CSTP to see if it could be replicated in similar rural environments to ultimately inform policy development.

A pilot project in the Nciba Circuit of the Cofimvaba Schools District in the Eastern Cape aims to test the contribution made by a unique and innovative approach to improve learning and teaching in schools in a rural context. The project, known as the Cofimvaba Schools Technology Project (CSTP), involves establishing themed working groups to design interventions around new and established technologies to be implemented in schools in the Nciba Circuit.

Seven themed working groups have been established thus far, including ICT and e-learning, water and sanitation, science and technology, nutrition and agri-teaching, teacher support, e-health and energy.

The project is a partnership between the Departments of Science and Technology (DST) and Basic Education (DBE), the Eastern Cape Department of Education, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), and the HSRC and CSIR. The DST commissioned the HSRC to do monitoring and evaluation of the CSTP to see if it could be replicated in similar rural environments to ultimately inform policy development. In response to the unique nature of the project, a team of researchers from the HSRC’s Education and Skills Development (ESD) unit designed a monitoring, evaluation, reflection and learning (MERL) framework, guided by a number of approaches, including participatory action research, evidence-based policy research, and outcomes mapping.

Going beyond traditional monitoring and evaluation approaches, MERL includes participatory reflection and learning processes intended to create a real-time response to learning from successes and challenges of the initiative in an iterative process. The approach also affirms the active involvement of learners, teachers and the broader community to ensure ownership and capacity development. This component of the project will be led by Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa from ESD and will run until April 2015.

Perspectives on early childhood development

A new project, Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE), has been undertaken by the Human and Social Development programme (HSD). The venture uses participatory research methods to explore the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices of parents, teachers and other interested parties in three African countries, namely Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland.

Candice Rule, a researcher, explains that this project investigates what access communities in these countries have to ECDE services. High levels of poverty and poor incomes exist in these countries, and the well-being of young children ranks among the lowest in the world. According to the Child Development Index, compiled by Save the Children UK in 2012, Zambia was ranked 101, Swaziland 95 and Malawi 98. The study is now at phase four, whereby a culturally-sensitive tool is being used to gather data.

New@HSRC

Professor Bédia Aka (doctorate in economics, University of Paris-12 Val-de-Marne, France) has been appointed an African research fellow in the Economic Performance and Development programme. Before joining the HSRC, he was professor of economics at the University Allassane Ouattara of Bouaké in the Ivory Coast. He has also worked in the areas of modelling macroeconomic fluctuations and growth at the University of Laval, University of Luxembourg and Statec-Luxembourg, and in the area of social protection at UNICEF-Ivory Coast.

Natalie le Roux (MA in research psychology, University of Zululand) is a registered research psychologist, and has been appointed a chief researcher in the Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) unit in the Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation research programme. She rejoined the HSRC in March this year, having worked at the University of the Free State as a researcher in research management and research administration.

Dr Nhlanhla Mbatha (PhD in economics, Rhodes University) has been appointed chief research manager in the Education and Skills Development programme. Before joining the HSRC, he was associate professor of economics at University of South Africa (Unisa). He has also worked as a research consultant in the areas of international trade and water resources management.

Mbulelo Ntusi (BSc and post-graduate diplomas in human resources and higher education), took up the position as head of human resources at the HSRC. He previously worked for the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) where he was employed as divisional executive for the human resources department.

Dr Udesh Pillay (PhD, urban and economic geography, University of Minnesota, USA), formerly an executive director in the Office of the CEO at the HSRC, has been appointed deputy CEO of management support. Dr Pillay, who joined the HSRC in 2002, previously headed four research programmes during his 10-year tenure at the HSRC.