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27 January 2012

Strategic national health surveys hit the road

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Two significant national surveys will be conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) this year.  The principal investigators of both studies are Dr Olive Shisana, CEO of the HSRC, Professor Leickness Simbayi (HAST), Professor Demetré Labadarios (PHHSI) and Professor Thomas Rehle.  The team officially launched the start of the studies in Cape Town today and invited all households approached by the researchers to assist in answering the important questions posed during face-to-face interviews.

The two studies will provide a comprehensive assessment of the health, behaviour, HIV, and nutritional status of the people of South Africa. This information is crucial to understand the health of South Africans to date and to guide future strategies and programmes. The two surveys are both aimed at determining aspects of the health status of South Africans, but have different purposes, Shisana explained.

The first study, funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is the fourth South African National HIV, Behaviour and Health Survey (SABSSM 4) conducted since 2002, and repeated in 2005 and 2008. These studies have provided critical information on the course of the HIV epidemic in South Africa. The focus of the 2012 survey has been expanded to include a wide range of health information including the health of infants and mothers, child health, and emerging interventions such as male circumcision. It also addresses issues such as psychological health and behavioural risk, for example, alcohol abuse and drug use.

For more info, read the SABSSM Fact Sheet.

The second survey, the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES), funded by the Department of Health and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), is the first of its kind conducted in South Africa, and is similar to health and nutrition examination surveys (NHANES) carried out on a regular basis in countries like the United States, Japan, China, Canada and countries in Europe. SANHANES is designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children. The survey is unique in that it combines interviews in households with physical examinations in mobile clinics and blood analysis in laboratories.

For more information read the SANHANES Fact Sheet.

By conducting these two surveys, South Africa will, for the first time, have a comprehensive understanding of the health profile of the population. It will provide data on communicable and non-communicable diseases at national and provincial levels, information that is vital for public health planning and programme implementation.

As with similar national studies, a random sample of households is chosen from communities throughout South Africa to ensure the results are representative of the population. The HSRC team and their partners appealed to the public to support the two surveys, as the results will have significant implications for the country’s future health policy and appropriate response mechanisms to current health challenges.

Fieldwork operations have already commenced in some provinces but will begin soon in the other provinces.

For further enquiries, contact Ina van der Linde on tel +27 (0)12 302 2024, cell phone 082 331 0614, or