Prof Alastair van Heerden is a research director in the HSRC's Human and Social Capabilities research division and leads the HSRC Sweetwaters Centre for Community-based Research. He holds a PhD in Public Health from the University of the Witwatersrand (2013) where he also holds an honorary Associate Professor appointment within the Department of Clinical Medicine. Van Heerden specialises in community-based intervention trials, digital and mobile health, and information and communications technology for development (ICT4D).
Van Heerden has over 10 years' experience conducting clinical, behavioural and community-based research throughout East and Southern Africa, Nepal and Brazil. He has an interdisciplinary focus to his research, which combines interests in technology for development and public health. These interests informed his PhD, which focused on pervasive computing in heath; particularly, how to harness inexpensive mobile technology to support health research in low-resource settings. He has been responsible for the implementation of several multi-year grants including work funded by the NIH (1R01MH077553, 1R01HD055137, 1R01MH105534-01A1), Gates (OPP1134599) and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (RIA2018D-2498).
Central to these studies was his desire to find community-based solutions to the challenges of centralised primary health care. Most recently he has worked to better understand how the digital sensing of behaviour can be used to support health interventions among young women with post-natal depression (episodic audio and proximity beacons, OPP1189927), healthy adolescents in Brazil (accelerometry, GPS and screen time, FF.1920.1.61), depressed adolescents in South Africa and Uganda (behavioural activation-based serious games, 1710HQ001/VW1) and gestational diabetes in obese pregnant women (continuous glucose sensors and machine-learning models designed to support understanding of activities of daily living, ACC2018003).
Van Heerden is a National Research Foundation C2-rated researcher. He has published 61 scientific articles in local and international peer-reviewed academic journals, 8 research reports, and  book chapters. He has also presented more than 50 papers and posters at local and international conferences. He is part of the editorial advisory board for the Global Health & Infectious Disease section at Heliyon and an ad-hoc reviewer for the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Journal of the International Aids Society, and Social Science and Medicine.