Who we are

Public Health, Societies and Belonging (PHSB)

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.

Gender and Inclusivity Project

The Gender and Inclusivity Project aims to strengthen the capacities of Science Granting Councils (SGCs) in Sub-Saharan Africa to advance systemic change towards greater gender inclusivity in the science technology and innovation (STI) sector. As central role players in national systems of innovation, SGCs are key to advancing gender transformation. SGCs contribute to setting and monitoring national research agendas and stimulate research designs and content responsive to gender inequality through funding projects informed by a gender transformative lens. Building on existing work of SGCs, the Gender and Inclusivity Project supports the mainstreaming of an intersectional transformative approach in the development, implementation and monitoring of gender policy, programmes and research in the functions of SGCs. Read more about this project.


The HSRC is working together with partners in the planning and implementation of the 6th national household survey funded by the the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Cooperative Agreement #GH001629).

The survey is the sixth in a series of population-based, cross-sectional household survey conducted in South Africa designed to assess the level of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and related health indicators. This multi-stage cluster survey of up to 85 000 randomly selected households in South Africa will provide representative data for some of the 52 districts.  About 39 000 study participants will be sampled from 15,000 households identified in the national sampling frame as described in the previous surveys. Additional sampling of households will be conducted to produce data that is representative at the finally sampled districts. SABSSM VI will provide information on HIV incidence, prevalence, antiretroviral treatment exposure, viral load suppression, HIV drug resistance, risk behaviours and communication in a household-based, nationally-representative sample of the population of South Africa and will describe uptake of key HIV care and treatment services.

Please note that all public enquiries should be addressed to:  SABSSMVI@hsrc.ac.za



Public Health, Societies and Belonging (PHSB)

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