The work of MaHRU is grouped under three main research themes: (i) violence; (ii) injury prevention; (iii) injury information, and monitoring and evaluation systems.
MaHRU’s Violence portfolio concerns itself with the individual-structural nexus of violence and thus represents a critical area of investment within violence research, extending the conventional focus on individual or proximate determinants to incorporate the influence of larger structural systems in shaping formations of violence. Nationally, patterns of violence are deeply imbricated in the inequalities of gender, race, class, age, sexuality, ability status, citizenship status, and history. Within this portfolio, causes of violence are understood to be multidimensional, interconnected, layered, and are both visible and invisible. Accordingly, MaHRU’s violence research agenda is directed toward analysing violence and its prevention using an approach that accounts for the individual and social coordinates through which multiple and interconnected forms of violence manifest in context-specific ways. The Everyday Violence Project is the Flagship Project of this group.
|The Everyday Violence Project|
The Everyday Violence Project (EVP) examines how violence is lived and felt in people’s day-to-day lives; how it relates to broader power systems and structures of violence; how it has been constituted by the global COVID-19 pandemic; and how we might facilitate the affective and material conditions that are able to reduce violence of this kind. The EVP’s multidisciplinary focus on the everyday violence and its dialectical entanglement with social and institutional structures speaks to the under-studied ways by which everyday violence undermines the social fabric of communities; how the individual-systemic nexus can be observed in the constitution of everyday violence in South Africa; and implications of cross-country research on everyday violence. Undergirding these research aims is a concern with the roles that men and masculinity play in the enactment and structuring of everyday violence. The EVP’s participatory approach seeks to resist imposing (often predetermined) violence prevention strategies from above, and instead work with existing, as well as building anew, community-oriented violence prevention structures and institutions. In this way, the EVP adopts a generative approach that resists the kinds of ‘damage-centred frames’ that so often characterise violence research. In looking towards a more expansive conception of violence than is typical within much research, the EVP looks to make connections between different kinds of violence as they cohere within the everyday.
MaHRU has an Injury Prevention Research portfolio around specific injury prevention niche areas. The injuries research theme focuses on developing the kind of prevention science that is required to strengthen the promotion of injury prevention and safety, taking into account the disproportionate involvement of boys and men. This group follows a social justice approach that draws on public health and social science methods for the development of community-centred and locally responsive prevention measures. The Burns, Energy Justice and Community Safety and the Traffic Safety and Alcohol Nexus Projects are the leading Projects here. Africa has reported a preponderance of burns during childhood, or amongst elderly populations, with emerging evidence of an over-representation amongst young adult men. In South Africa, the burden of traffic mortality on young men is vast, with a need to understand the demographics, distal and proximal determinants, occurrence, consequences, and preventability of traffic injury involving men as both drivers and pedestrians.
|Traffic Safety and Alcohol Nexus|
|In South Africa there is a recognition of the far-reaching effects of alcohol use and intoxication on road traffic crashes, injury, disability, and mortality. Despite global campaigns - such as the United Nations Decade of Action as well as several intensive South African efforts - the rate of road traffic injury and mortality has only marginally decreased in 2017 and 2018, and still high at 25.9 deaths per 100 000. The mortality rate for males is 3.5 times higher than that of females, with young males often affected and alcohol intoxication associated with increased risk for road traffic crash morbidity. This project is a collaboration with the Road Traffic Motor Corporation (RTMC) and reports on the demographics, determinants, and elevated impact of alcohol on all road users, highlighting the need for prioritising specific measures to enhance the safe mobility of vulnerable road users.|
|Burns, Energy Justice and Community Safety|
Energy impoverishment is a leading social problem in South Africa. A significant percentage of the population rely on dirty fuels and unsafe energy technology for their household energy needs, with over 2 million dependent on paraffin for cooking and heating. Such paraffin use accounts for significant burn injuries, poisoning, and the destruction of livelihoods and property. Men and women are both affected by energy poverty, with women especially exposed due to the gendered nature of domestic energy use. There are also considerably high energy-related injury outcomes among men which are due, in part due to lifestyle and social behaviour. In South Africa, there is a need for an expedited access to safe energy, especially for energy impoverished communities. This Project provides empirical evidence to support the adoption, mobilisation, and implementation of inclusive and safe energy for energy impoverished communities.
Injury information and Monitoring Evaluation Systems
MAHRU’s Injury Information, and Monitoring and Evaluation Systems includes the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System and the Community Safety and Peace Index. These provide national and community specific data collection systems and sentinel data for policy decisions and prevention interventions. Injury is a major and ongoing cause of mortality in South Africa, with 54 163 of 454 014 deaths registered by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs in 2018. The South African National Development Plan has prioritised a 50% reduction of injuries and violence by 2030. Public health surveillance will be vital to this. Injury surveillance is required to monitor the extent, demographics, temporal and socio-economic trends to the major causes of injury death to enable effective policy and intervention decision making and appropriately targeted actions.
|National Injury Mortality Surveillance System|
The National Injury Mortality Surveillance System, or NIMSS, is a data source that may be used to determine the ‘what, who, when, and where’ of violence and injury. In South Africa, the study of injury mortality is however under-reported with the misclassification of injury deaths detracting from the formulation of appropriate prevention and support strategies. The overall purpose of the NIMSS is firstly to provide accurate and timely information on the incidence, causes, and circumstances of injury or non-natural deaths. In 2021, NIMSS continued (i) the refinement of its manual system for the collection, collation, and analysis of data; and (ii) the development of an automated, web-based system. Secondly, NIMSS prioritises the dissemination of sentinel information on the incidence, demographics, and circumstances of non-natural deaths.
|Community Safety and Peace Index|
The health and well-being of the population is contingent on safety and peace, as well as the availability of psychometrically sound measures to measure progress and impact related to safety and peace promotion initiatives. The Community Safety and Peace Index (CSPI) study, therefore, aims to develop a contextually and psychometrically valid and reliable instrument to assess, monitor, and promote safety and peace at the local, regional, and national levels in South Africa. The CSPI study has five objectives, namely: (i) to identify the relevant indicators to measure community safety and peace; (ii) to assess the internal consistency, factorial structure, and external validity of the CSPI questionnaire in a local Western Cape context; iii) to establish the psychometric properties of the CSPI; (iv) to develop a mobile phone application that can be used to digitise and record community safety and peace; and (v) to systematically monitor and report the progress of safety and peace at the local, regional, and national levels in South Africa, and identify challenges and gaps to make recommendations and advocate for action.