Mapping the health and nutritional status of South Africans

South African National Health and Nutrition Survey (SANHANES-I)

The first South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES-1), a 400-page report of a population health survey that will be regularly repeated, was released in August by the HSRC. The aim: to address the changing health needs in the country, and provide a broader and more comprehensive platform to study the health and nutritional status of the nation on a regular basis.

The study was compiled by a research consortium comprising the HSRC and the Medical Research Council (MRC), and was financed by the national Department of Health,the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the HSRC.

SANHANES-1 provides critical information to map the emerging epidemic of non-infectious or noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in South Africa, environmental factors that contribute to the population’s state of health.

Study methods
SANHANES-1 included individuals of all ages living in South Africa, except the homeless and those living in educational institutions, old age homes, hospitals and uniformed-service barracks. The study, conducted during 2012, included 25 532 individuals (92.6% interview response rate) who completed a questionnaire-based interview; 12 025 participants had a physical examination completed by a medical doctor; and 8 078 participants provided a blood specimen for biomarker testing.

A biomarker is a measurable characteristic that reflects the severity or presence of the state of some disease, in the context of this article, vitamin A and iron deficiencies. This first round of SANHANES will provide baseline data of a representative sample of the population for future analysis over long periods of time (longitudinal surveys).

The following three articles cover the findings on the status of noncommunicable diseases among adults and children, food security and the food choices people make that impact on their health.