Health Systems Research

HST’s Health Systems Research unit undertakes innovative health systems research to strengthen the district health system, its support systems and priority programmes. HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and the special needs of vulnerable groups such as mothers, infants and children receive particular attention. Improving knowledge management, translating research into policy or practice and building capacity within the paradigm of Essential National Health Research are important areas of emphasis. Future research activities will also focus on Human Resources in Health and Health Financing. Faced with the challenges of the southern African region struggling to cope with a quadruple disease burden and health systems under pressure to improve their efficiencies in resource-constrained situations, HST’s Research Programme adds special value to the general health research environment by commissioning or undertaking relevant, high priority, multi-disciplinary, operational and applied research in a rapid, flexible, cost-effective, cooperative, innovative and principled way.

The HSR unit commissions, funds and conducts policy-relevant health systems research on behalf of the South African government and international donors. The unit has a core of highly-skilled project managers and researchers who participate in research priority setting processes within the country, develop research briefs, identify additional research consultants and manage the projects throughout the research process. In addition to the regular research project reports displayed below, the programme continues to disseminate health perspectives and health information in our highly-acclaimed annual publications, South African Health Review and District Health Barometer.

The unit’s Knowledge Management activities encourage and facilitate the use of information for evidence-informed decision making by various stakeholders. Electronic and hard copy information produced by HST and other stakeholders is disseminated. The unit also works in partnership with national and provincial legislators on promoting equity in health and health care through ongoing monitoring of health and health systems indicators and providing information and support directly to legislative structures.

The unit’s current projects are listed below and more detailed information on each of them can be accessed via the link. Although Health Systems Strengthening and Health Systems Research are listed as separate operational units, this division is not too apparent in practice as many projects are implemented on a collaborative cross-unit basis drawing on the skills of individuals from the organisation as a whole.

Health Systems Research Projects

The District Health Barometer (DHB) is produced annually and illustrates important aspects of the health system at district level through analysis of a selected range of health indicators. Data feeding into the report are drawn from a range of sources, including the South African Department of Health, Statistics South Africa, the National Tuberculosis register and National Treasury. It is the only publication of its kind in South Africa and makes available comparative data for measuring and tracking progress in delivering primary health care services at district level.
The South African Health Review (SAHR), an annual publication of HST since 1995, provides a South African perspective on prevailing local and international public health issues. It has rapidly become a flagship product that is widely read, used and quoted as an authoritative reference work in South Africa and abroad. It provides a combination of detailed information on health status and care, coupled with in-depth analysis of policies and practices affecting the provision of health services, as well as insight into the degree of success that has been achieved in policy implementation.
Through the development of two web-based tools, HST has created a platform to assist the Department of Health and its provincial counterparts track and manage research activities in the country. The Research Application Management System enables users to follow the progress of approval for their research, share relevant documentation and access relevant information regarding research in their areas of interest.