Prof Karen Hofman

Research Professor and Founding Director of PRICELESS (Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening) SA at the University of Witwatersrand, Faculty of Health Sciences, Karen Hofman is a Wits medical graduate and a qualified Paediatrician. She was previously on faculty at Johns Hopkins and served as Director of the Policy and Planning Office at the US NIH Fogarty International Center before returning to SA.

Since 2009, Prof Hofman has led a multidisciplinary research team showing where SA can gain the biggest return on investment for health both within the health system and across other sectors.  She works closely with decision makers at the national and provincial level to ensure that the research is policy relevant. One analysis showed the cost saving and deaths averted to prevent stroke by passing regulations on the salt content of processed food. Similarly, a series of modelling studies on a potential sugary beverage tax, led to the passage of the SA Health Promotion Levy in 2018.  During the 2015 countdown to Millennium Development Goals, PRICELESS showed the top priorities for child and maternal health for saving lives, with the associated marginal costs of scaling up.  

The overarching goal of the newly established SAMRC/Wits Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science is to contribute to evidence-based decision-making that promotes equitable distribution of scarce resources. The SA Public have been identified as one key constituency who must be consulted on health priorities and robust methodologies for doing so are being developed. The newly established Masters in Public Health Economics at the Wits SPH will continue to create a pipeline of capacity and skills in this field.

Prof Hofman has served on several ministerial committees, is an author on more than 100 journal manuscripts and chapters and regularly engages with the media. As a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) she served as the South African Foreign Secretary for Health on the IAMP and in 2016 she received the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) Annual PHILA Award.