A team of policy makers, planners and academics have come together in this programme of work to enact a broader commitment to health systems strengthening in Southern Africa.

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Peter Byass
Co-Principal Investigator

Prof. Peter Byass was Professor of Global Health at the University of Umeå, Sweden. He also held honorary Professorships at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the University of the Witwatersrand. Over 25 years Peter worked on a wide range of population health measurement issues in Africa and Asia, contributing both to evidence and methodologies. He authored many publications, and served as deputy Editor of Global Health Action, as well as on the editorial boards of PLoS Medicine and Population Health Metrics. Peter sadly died, suddenly, on 16th August 2020.

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Lucia D'Ambruoso
Principal Investigator

Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso is a social scientist with 15 years international experience in participatory methodologies and health surveillance for health system strengthening. Lucia is a senior lecturer in global health at the University of Aberdeen, a Global Affiliate of the Umeå Centre for Global Health Research and an honorary researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

Jennifer Hove
Doctoral Researcher

Jennifer Hove is a PhD student at the University of Witwatersrand. Her PhD investigates community participation in improving health in rural South Africa. She previously worked as processing officer at Zimbabwe. Her career took a complete shift in 2009 when she moved to South Africa and worked for a Public Health organisation where she obtained her MPH. Her quest is to advocate and promote equity in health.

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Kathleen Kahn

Senior Scientist: MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research (Agincourt), Professor: Health and Population Division, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand.   Kathy co-founded the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) and uses her experience in public health research to enhance child and adolescent health and development, understand of burden of disease, provide post graduate training, build sustainable health research partnerships across the world. 

Denny Mabetha
Wits/DoH Coordinator

Denny Mabetha is a qualified dietitian currently working as a coordinator for VAPAR Project, serves as a link between Wits/Agincourt HDSS and Mpumalanga Department of Health and other Departments at Province and District levels. Denny is currently studying towards her postgraduate Masters of Science in Field epidemiology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Nombuyiselo Nkalanga
Research Coordinator

Nombuyiselo Nkalanga is a university graduate with a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences and a passion for public service, building society, and learning. Nomi works at MRC/Wits Agincourt research unit as a coordinator for VAPAR. A key member of the team, Nomi works intensively engaging local services and rural communities and with data, management and administrative matters.


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Barry Spies

Dr Barry Spies M.Med (paed), University of the Free State, South Africa, MB,ChB, University of the Free Sate, South Africa. Since 2012, Barry has been District Clinical Specialist (Paediatrician), Ehlanzeni District, Mpumalanga Province (Funded by South African Department of Health). Prior to this he was Head of Paediatric unit, Themba Hospital, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa (Funded by South African Department of Health). Barry is also a member of the ministerial committee on the mortality and morbidity of children under 5 years (CoMMiC), South Africa

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Stephen Tollman

Steve Tollman (BSc,  MBBCh  MMed, MA, MPH, PhD) directs the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) and the Health and Population Division in the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand. Internationally, he is guest professor in the Centre for Global Health Research, Umeå University, Sweden, and Principal Scientist of the INDEPTH Network (International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health).

Maria Van Der Merwe

Maria obtained a Master of Nutrition (cum laude) from Stellenbosch University and a Bachelor of Dietetics from the University of Pretoria. Maria has experience in both the private and public health sector in South Africa in program areas including maternal and child health and nutrition and is known for her practical approach to applying evidence-based recommendations in a real-world environment. 

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Sophie Witter
Co-Principal Investigator

Sophie is a health economist with nearly 30 years of experience working in applied health system research in low and middle income countries. Her focal areas are health financing and provider remuneration, evaluating complex interventions and getting research into practice. She did her PhD on financial barriers to maternal health care in West Africa. She is Professor of International Health Financing and Health Systems at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.


We work with organisations with knowledge broker roles in international research, with technical agencies and public engagement organisations to enrich our research process, facilitate and extend impacts in different sectors and with different audiences. 


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