Who we are

Human and Social Capabilities

Who we are

The HSC aims to lead knowledge production towards a healthy, just, equal, and cohesive society. This includes surveillance of the HIV and TB epidemics, as well as research on the socio-behavioural impacts of COVID-19 and other non-communicable diseases. The goal is to provide strategically relevant public-health data that inform programmes and policies in the country.

The multi-disciplinary team explores the lived experiences, challenges and opportunities faced by under-served, vulnerable and marginalised communities, aiming to understand how they navigate their health, wellbeing, identities and sense of belonging. A clearer understanding of these conditions enables us to better promote the health and wellbeing of South Africans and to create conditions for prosperity and social cohesion. The HSC’s research work explores how agency, attitudes, aspirations, capabilities, and other psychosocial factors reinforce or weaken the constraints imposed by the social environment and the structural divides due to apartheid. The division also conducts research to explore South Africans’ COVID-19 experiences and perceptions.

It also conducts multi-country research funded by agencies, such as the US Centers for Disease Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 

What we do

The HSC division’s Health and Wellbeing group looks at the impact of poverty and unbalanced income distribution, gender and violence, underdevelopment of community infrastructure, the longer-term impacts of the apartheid system and development of interventions to promote health and prevent illness. Research themes include health-surveillance, -promotion and -systems research, and social and biomedical issues of health and disease.

The Identity and Belonging group focuses on individual, social and political identity as it is shaped by social categories such as race, gender, sexuality, class, ability and age. Research themes include race, identity in society and systems in transition; genders and sexualities; and under-served, vulnerable and marginalised communities.

The Centre for Community-based Research operates at a community level based in the Greater Edendale area of KwaZulu-Natal. For the past 15 years, the centre has served as a hub for capacity building and training, with its community-based intervention research aiming to improve public health and wellbeing. In 2020, the centre commenced quantitative and qualitative research to explore South Africans’ experiences and perceptions in preparation for, during and after the COVID-19 lockdowns – work that is ongoing.

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