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Health Systems Trust launches latest South African Health Review and District Health Barometer, introduces the National Health Research Database


Leading health systems research agency and thought-leader Health Systems Trust proudly announces the combined launch of the South African Health Review (SAHR) 2013/14, the District Health Barometer (DHB) 2013/14, and the National Health Research Database (NHRD). 
The Honourable Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, will deliver the keynote address, and the Deputy Director-General of Primary Health Care, Ms Jeanette Hunter, will introduce the NHRD.

The 17th edition of the SAHR – now an officially accredited peer-reviewed journal that chronicles the development of South Africa’s post-Apartheid health system – offers current, evidence-based insights into how integration of policy and implementation is either helped or hindered in a range of healthcare structures, protocols and processes. 
Focusing on good practice, the chapters include: progress and innovations in the three streams of the primary health care re-engineering framework (District Clinical Specialist Teams, Ward-based Outreach Teams, and School Health); challenges in district health management, and at facility level, a pioneering application of the Lean Management model for high-quality cost-effective service delivery; quality improvement supported through the work of the Office of Health Standards Compliance, with the Ideal Clinic initiative in place and the concept of social franchising mooted; advancements and barriers in environmental health and emerging technologies such as eHealth; addressing cervical cancer in South Africa; and a planning perspective on the role of the private health sector in operationalising National Health Insurance.
The Health and Related Indicators chapter is the mainstay of every Review edition, listing key new data sources along with central issues and trends, and providing the latest data covering 10 areas and approximately 100 indicators, ranging from health status to health financing indicators.

Published annually, the DHB provides current information on functioning and progress in all 52 health districts, describing performance over time in relation to previous years as well as other districts. Each edition highlights problem areas, data quality issues, sustained and notable progress, and aspects requiring deeper research into underlying factors contributing to the indicator values and trends. This ninth edition of the DHB presents data on 47 financial and health indicators, with additional chapters on progress towards equity, burdens of disease, district health performance ranking, and specific data quality concerns. 
This year’s Barometer paints a mixed picture in the national profile; significant gains were noted in some areas:
  • The antenatal care coverage before 20 weeks increased by 8 percentage points from the previous year to reach 50%, its highest level since 2001/02.
  • The cure rate for new pulmonary smear-positive TB patients has increased over the last seven years to 75.8%. Fourteen districts had cure rates over 80% compared to 10 in the previous year.
  • The stillbirth rate was 21.5 per 1 000 births, the lowest rate since 2001/02. 
  • The early mother-to-child transmission of HIV was 2.2% and below the national target of 3%. 
  • The case fatality rates for diarrhoea with dehydration, pneumonia and severe acute malnutrition in children under five years of age continued to show a downward trend.
  • The couple year protection rate of 37.3% in 2013/14 exceeded the National Department of Health (NDoH) target of 36%.
However, abiding challenges were apparent in others:
  • The Caesarean section rate in district hospitals shows an upward trend since 2004/05, reaching its highest level at 21.8% in 2013/14.
  • The rate for antenatal clients initiated on ART in 2012/13 was only 76.3% and had decreased from the previous year’s 81.6%. Compared with last year, fewer districts reached the target of 85% set by the NDoH.

Click here to download the DHB 2013/14 presentation given at the launch.

Supporting and sharing cutting-edge health research is a priority for the National Department of Health, which has established National Health Research Committees to identify key areas for health research, as prescribed by the National Health Act (61 or 2003). Provincial Health Research Committees (PHRCs) have also been instituted to manage health research conducted in the nine provinces. 
Now, the National Health Research Database (NHRD) – a standardised monitoring system to track and manage health research in South Africa – has been designed to enable all PHRCs to process province-based research applications via a web-based mechanism. 
Building this database is the first of many steps towards creating a central repository for health research, from which to gain an understanding of research priorities and much-needed evidence-based practices in South Africa. Throughout this process, HST has worked closely with the National Health Research Committee (NHRC) and continuously with each PHRC. 
Administrators save time and effort using the automated NHRD system, through which they can easily track completed research and follow up on progress reports. Researchers benefit from the easy online submission of applications for approval, and receiving immediate feedback on their application status. Both PHRCs and Health Research Ethics Committees (HREC) can amass health research data for the development of a South African National Health Research Observatory – the first of its kind in the country. 
A notable advantage of the NHRD is that the system facilitates routine monthly, quarterly and annual reporting by various derivatives, allowing the NDoH to gauge categories of and spending on health research nationally as well as provincially. This supports improved planning and evidence-based decision-making. 
The NHRD has been successfully piloted in the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal and will be rolled out nationally using a phased implementation approach to ensure that uptake is controlled and effective.


Launch details:
Date: Wednesday 29 October 2014 
Venue: Southern Sun Hotel, Cnr. Steve Biko and Pretorius Streets, Arcadia, Pretoria
Time: 17h30 to 20h30 (Registration at 17h00) 
Contact: Judith Annakie-Eriksen
HST Communications Projects Officer 

About Health Systems Trust
Health Systems Trust (HST) is a dynamic not-for-profit organisation established in 1992 to support the transformation of our country’s health system in the new democratic South Africa. We continue to serve this high ideal, operating at regional and national levels through provinces, districts and facilities and into communities. HST’s Programmes Directorate comprises two health systems strengthening units – one focusing on research and the other on implementation perspectives. 
Health Systems Trust produces two flagship publications, the District Health Barometer (DHB) and the South African Health Review (SAHR).
  • The DHB provides a detailed overview of the South Africa’s public health services in and across all 52 health districts, and has become an important planning and management resource for health service providers, managers, researchers and policy-makers in the country.
  • Published since 1995 and now officially accredited as a peer-reviewed journal, the SAHR provides a South African perspective on prevailing local and international public health issues, and is widely read, used and quoted as an authoritative reference work in the country and abroad.