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.

Lucia D'Ambruoso
Principal Investigator

Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso is a social scientist with 18 years international experience in participatory methodologies and health surveillance for health system strengthening. Lucia is 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.

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.  She is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa as both a dietitian and nutritionist and held various portfolios on the regional and executive professional organisations for nutrition professionals over the past two decades.


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. 

Jennifer Hove
Doctoral Researcher

Jennifer Hove is a PhD student at the University of Witwatersrand. Her PhD investigates the role of community participation in improving health using a participatory action research approach 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 also obtained MPH. She has been working in rural South Africa and her quest is to advocate and promote equity in health.

Peter Byass
Co-Principal Investigator
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.

Rhian Twine

Rhian Twine Head of Stakeholder Engagement Office MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research (Agincourt), has worked for 30 years in rural areas in South Africa, specifically 13 years working in the field of public engagement in research. During this time, she worked on projects that required her to work in the community, allowing a deep understanding of society in the rural area of Bushbuckridge , its organisation, challenges and its progress. 

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 now holds the position of Professor of International Health Financing and Health Systems at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, where in addition to working as co-investigator on VAPAR.

Barry Spies

Prof. Peter Byass is currently Professor of Global Health at the University of Umeå, in Northern Sweden, and is Director of the Umeå Centre for Global Health Research. He also holds honorary Professorships at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the last 25 years Peter has worked on a wide range of population health measurement issues in Africa and Asia, contributing both to evidence and to methodologies. He has authored many publications, and serves as deputy Editor of Global Health Action, as well as being on the editorial boards of PLoS Medicine and Population Health Metrics.

Peter Byass
Co-Principal Investigator
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. 

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).


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. 


© 2018 VAPAR/Wits/DoH Mpumalanga


The research is supported by the Health Systems Research Initiative from Department for International Development (DFID)/ Medical Research Council (MRC)/ Wellcome Trust/ Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (MR/N005597/1, MR/P014844/1)