How we are Organised
The Programmes directorate comprises two units, Health Systems Research and Health Systems Strengthening. Through this structure and using a number of strategies, HST has played a key role in supporting the transformation of the health system in South Africa over the past nineteen years. HST has also demonstrated how a NPO in a developing country context can support both government and other civil society groups to strengthen an inefficient and inequitable public health sector. Through the work of its programmes HST has acquired a wealth of experience in the design and support of relevant health systems research, providing district managers with technical support and taking a lead in information dissemination within the health sector in South Africa and, increasingly, in southern Africa. In the process, HST has established relationships with the South African Department of Health, with all provincial health departments and with various public and private sector service providers nationally and internationally.
Health Systems Research (HSR) unit: 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 on HST’s website, 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 research unit embarked on fostering North-South partnerships as part of a strategy for fast tracking capacity building for local consultants. In this process the unit has established relationships with renowned international experts interested in North-South partnerships for conducting research. Specific areas of common interest include research in the following areas: HIV/AIDS/STI/TB, reproductive health, maternal and child health and human resources management.
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.
Health Systems Strengthening (HSS) unit: the HSS unit grew out of the Initiative for Sub District Support (ISDS) established in 1996 to support the implementation of the District Health System in South Africa and, more recently, out of the activities of the District Strengthening and Community Development cluster and the Health Management Information System (HMIS) section. ISDS developed ‘best-practice districts’ in 21 district sites in all nine provinces of South Africa. Important lessons were learnt and fed into policy for the benefit of the entire health system. Many of these sites won awards, indirectly acknowledging HST for its support for District Health System development.
Health Systems Strengthening provides an excellent entry point into the entire health system by focusing on strengthening district, sub-district and facility management, also emphasizing strengthening community development and community involvement in primary health care.
The district management-related activities facilitate and support the implementation of health programmes in primary health care facilities by providing technical and managerial support to district management teams and frontline service providers. The community development component of the unit was established in 2001 to support selected districts in social development partnerships with community-based organisations and was successful in developing models for community development around key health issues.
In 2005 the unit was contracted to strengthen the National Health Information System in South Africa and built up a team of skilled staff working at national, provincial and district levels throughout the country to improve the quality of health information and the capacity of managers to use health information for planning and management.