The health of SA is the wealth of SA

Karen Hofman is a Research Professor and Founding Director of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)/Wits Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science (PRICELESS SA) in the School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences.
The health of SA is the wealth of SA

The Centre was established in 2009 as the Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening (PRICELESS).

A Wits Medical School graduate, Hofman has since 2009 led policy research to evaluate interventions inside the health system and in other sectors that provide the biggest return on investment for health.

Hofman received a Gold Medal for her application of scientific thinking in the service of society, the results of which mean that we as a population are healthier.

Saving lives from salt and liquid sugar

The bread eaten by South Africans today has significantly less salt in it than it did 10 years ago. This is the result of mandatory regulations based on PRICELESS SA research that showed how many lives could be saved from averting strokes and the cost savings of doing so. Salt reduction is one of the most cost-effective interventions for population health.

Similarly, we now have choices when we order sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). Hofman was instrumental in driving the Health Promotion Levy (‘sugar tax’), based on rigorous scientific research, towards reducing consumption of SSBs in order to advance public health. Liquid sugar is a major contributor to obesity, starting in childhood and extending across the lifespan, with obesity-related disease numbers now having overtaken HIV/Aids in SA. This demonstrates how intersectoral action is essential to improve population health.

Hofman's work on universal health coverage has strategically focused on priority-setting, a key driver to implement a sustainable National Health Insurance (NHI) by doing research to inform health benefit packages and decisions to improve both health systems and population health outcomes.

According to the citation, Hofman embodies the essence of the Science for Society award by conducting transdisciplinary research – she identifies policy relevant issues; engages with various relevant publics before, during and after the research endeavour; and commits time and has the expertise to disseminate the research evidence through channels both academic and, importantly, media, as well as direct public engagement.

Professor Imraan Valodia, Pro Vice-Chancellor Climate, Sustainability and Inequality, who nominated Hofman, says, "Professor Hofman is the epitome of a Wits researcher – world class research for creating a better world. This is a richly deserved recognition of the importance of her research."

Hofman says, “I feel most honoured that my contributions have been recognised by the Academy of Science of South Africa in an auspicious year when Wits celebrates its 100th anniversary. This award is not just for me, but it also belongs to my amazing team at the SAMRC Wits Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science. Our group of passionate and very smart individuals, whose backgrounds range from health systems, through health economics, to health law and health communication, have supported me and have believed in the mission of the organisation. My top-notch admin team are the glue that keeps us all moving forward. The whole team believe, as I do, that ‘the health of SA is the wealth of SA’”.

Article originally posted here.




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