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The EHRU out and about

2024

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Professor Caradee Wright attends in-person WHO-TAG meeting on Embedding Ethics in Health and Climate Change Policy

As a member of the World Health Organization’s Technical Advisory Group, Professor Caradee Wright attended the first in-person meeting on Embedding Ethics in Health and Climate Change Policy. It was held from 6-7 May 2024 at the Brocher Foundation in Hermanz, Switzerland.

This meeting was hosted by the World Health Organization and the Brocher Foundation. Considerations of the rights and responsibilities held by various stakeholders in ethical decision-making were noted. Members further advised the Secretariat on the development of evidence gathering methodologies – referencing case studies designed to identify the practical ethical challenges arising for health and research stakeholders responding to climate change – while also drafting supporting tools and similar mechanisms which support inclusion of ethical considerations in policy and decision making relating to climate change and health. Reviewing and recommendations on the final tools, frameworks and dissemination strategies also formed part of the technical advisory group’s deliberations.

Members of the Technical Advisory Committee will continue collaborating on identifying ethical issues in tools, strategies and policies related to climate change and health. Professor Wright valued the opportunity to address potential ethical issues in her case studies, simultaneously appreciating Brocher Foundation’s picturesque views.

WHO-TAG meeing

 

E&HRU hosts NIEHS’ Professor Gwen Collman

On 6 May, the Environment and Health Research Unit (E&HRU) team in Cape Town had the privilege of hosting Professor Gwen Collman from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), USA.  A meeting was arranged to delve into environmental health research conducted at each institution – with a key focus on climate change and health. The session included an overview of the E&HRU work presented by Dr. Renee Street, the Unit Director. Following this, Dr Nomfundo Mahlangeni highlighted projects undertaken by the E&HRU Climate Change and Health Research Programme – led by Professor Caradee Wright. Professor Collman then shared insights with the team on the work of NIEHS and their research priority areas. These presentations served as a pivotal moment for the group to engage in discussions about ongoing research and future opportunities, with a particular focus on community engagement and the impacts of climate change on health.

NIEH

 

Professor Caradee Wright participates in the HEI & GHOC 2024 committee and annual conference meetings

Committee members of the Health Effects Institute met on 27-30 April 2024 in Philadelphia to discuss HEI activities and the annual conference, which covered a range of topics – hosted by the HEI.

Professor Caradee Wright participated in the Global Health Oversight Committee meeting, as well as the East Africa air pollution and health meeting. Through the work with East Africa and air pollution and health, Professor Wright is hopeful that future collaborations will ensue that complement the work done by the E&HRU – within its Climate Change and Human Health Research Programme. Professor Wright was also impressed by the excellent, young scientists in attendance at the conference.  

HEI

 

Professor Caradee Wright attends the National Institutes of Health Scholars 2024 climate and health meeting

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Climate Change and Health Scholars – class of 2024 – attended the first in-person meeting on climate and health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA on 26 April.

Members of the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative (CCH) were also present at the meeting, which provided an opportunity for Scholars, NIH CCH Working Group members and other NIH staff to meet each other and to share ideas. The event – hosted by the NIH – also facilitated multidisciplinary interactions in relation to the Scholars’ areas of expertise and science topics within the NIH mission, which sparked a synergistic approach to identify priorities, gaps, and challenges in climate change and health issues related to the CCH Framework strategic plan.

Attendees participated in presentations and group discussions. Professor Caradee Wright is hopeful that the meeting will lead to collaborations in future between Scholars and is currently working on preparing a scoping review and developing a framework as part of her Scholar’s work. Excellent science being done in climate change and health research stood out to Professor Wright and serves as a motivation to continue producing similar work of a high standard.  

NIH

 

Dr Renée Street pioneers Global Wastewater Surveillance research

Dr Renée Street has been named by the Rockefeller Foundation as one of four women pioneering advancements in global wastewater surveillance.

As climate change alters global disease patterns and triggers cross-species viral transmissions, wastewater epidemiology has emerged as a critical tool in the public health field.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Street and her team navigated the challenges of sample collection and analysis, so that public health officials could get usable and reliable results on a weekly basis. The SAMRC Wastewater Surveillance and Research Programme is a collaboration between the E&HRU, Biomedical Research Innovation Platform (BRIP) and Genomics Platform. Lab technicians from historically disadvantaged institutions were also trained in sampling and analysis methods.

After a cholera outbreak hit the country in May 2023, the research focus shifted to being able to detect it. This year the team pivoted again, which led to introducing a multi-pathogen panel that looks at 24 different pathogens – worsening due to climate change.

“Tracking pathogens through wastewater surveillance is about staying ahead of outbreaks to protect communities from public health threats.”

Read more | HERE

Exploring microbial risk assessment: Dr Street participates in the FAO workshop

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) convened a workshop focused on microbial risk assessment from 16-18 April, in Cape Town. Key experts and stakeholders were brought together. Guided by the FOA’s expertise, the workshop provided a platform for intensive discussion and knowledge exchange.  Dr Street’s participation was marked by her insightful contributions and unwavering commitment to advancing knowledge in microbial risk assessment – particularly under a One Health Framework.  From exploring the fundamentals of risk analysis to exploring latest advancements in the risk assessment methodologies, participants gained invaluable insights into safeguarding food systems from microbial hazards. The workshop also fostered an environment of collaboration and shared learning. Attendees, representing diverse sectors and regions, brought their unique perspectives to the table, enriching discussions and contributing to a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities in microbial risk assessment.

FAQ
Dr Tracey Laban attends the Clean Air Fund Stakeholder Engagement Workshop 2024

Dr Tracey Laban attended the Clean Air Fund Stakeholder Engagement Workshop on 11 April 2024 in Kempton Park, Gauteng. The Clean Air Fund (CAF) is a philanthropic organisation that works with governments, funders, businesses and campaigners in tackling global air pollution. Its workshop brought together stakeholders in the air quality community to introduce and solicit input on development of CAF’s strategy for South Africa. The strategy focuses on three areas of work: data (putting compelling evidence in the right hands), demand (growing public awareness) and drive (influencing decision-makers to commit to clean air targets). As part of their initial work, CAF presented on the Breathe Cities initiative in the City of Johannesburg in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and C40. One of the activities proposed under Breathe Cities Johannesburg is quantifying the public health impacts of poor air quality in Johannesburg which aligns with the strategic goals of E&HRU, as well as a potential funding source, to do this work. Dr Laban also participated in a panel discussion representing the community, youth, government and research organisations and shared her thoughts on what research institutions needed to do to create greater public awareness on the health impacts of air pollution.

Clean Air

 

Professor Caradee Wright attends the 2024 project kick-off meeting for the African NEETs and depression study

Youth unemployment is rife in lower-and middle-income countries (LiMiCs) such as South Africa and others – particularly on the African continent. This social ill is compounded by challenges brought about by mental health conditions such as depression.

In a concerted effort to address these prevalent social, psychological and environmental challenges, the Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) study was born. The first project kick-off meeting was hosted by the University of Pretoria (UP) and occurred from 8-11 April 2024 at the Mongena Lodge, Dinokeng. Project collaborators – which included multiple institutions in South Africa and Nigeria, as well as SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) and REPSSI (an NGO) – spent time planning for the project; in understanding project aims and objectives, assigning tasks, deciding on deliverables, as well as discussing milestones. The teamwork demonstrated during this planning session was of particular significance to Professor Caradee Wright.

Through the work of Professor Wright and her team, the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) E&HRU will be involved with the project for the next five years.

Project
Health Adaptation Benefits for Vulnerable Groups in Africa (HABVIA) Study: Fieldwork summary

The SAMRC E&HRU is one of the collaborators with University of Cape Town (UCT) on the Heat Adaptation Benefits for Vulnerable Groups in Africa (HABVIA) project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

HABVIA aims to address evidence gaps by gathering high-quality cohort data on physiological and mental health, alongside climate, environmental, and socio-economic information, in four heat-vulnerable study sites in South Africa and Ghana. The four study sites are in Ga Mashe in Accra, Ghana; Nkwantakese in Kumasi, Ghana; Site B in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa and Mphego Village in Thohoyandou, South Africa. HABVIA will also build local community awareness raising and capacity for heat adaptation.

Dr Thandi Kapwata from the SAMRC’s E&HRU leads the site in Thohoyandou in the Limpopo Province. Research activities commenced in April 2023 and will continue until March 2027. During the first phase of the study, the E&HRU field staff visited households to invite the community members to participate in the study. Once recruitment was completed, a health survey was conducted and health measurements as well as environmental data were collected.

HAVIA

Some of the HABVIA team members at the launch of the project at UCT

HABVIA

HABVIA field team in Mpegho, Thohoyandou

Dr Renée Street attends GLOWACON launch in Brussels

Dr Renée Street attended the launch of the Global Consortium for Wastewater and Environmental Surveillance for Public Health. This initiative aims to establish an international system for early detection, prevention, and real-time monitoring of epidemic threats and outbreaks. The inaugural event, held on 19 and 20 March in Brussels, gathered over 300 key collaborators, including organizations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Both in-person and virtual attendance were features of the event, bringing together diverse representatives from health ministries, NGOs, industry, research institutions and public health bodies. Discussions covered aspects of the consortium, including sampling procedures, testing protocols, data management, capacity building and research and innovation. GLOWACON is well positioned to identify and align funding opportunities for global health surveillance efforts.

Professor Caradee Wright participates in the Clean Air Fund Board and Grants and Charitable Activities Committee Annual Meeting, in London, UK

The Clean Air Fund Board and Grants and Charitable Activities Committee Annual Meeting took place from 11-13 March 2024 in London, UK hosted by the Clean Air Fund. Presentations on the Fund’s progress was the order of the event – which doubled up as a workshop. Board members were also given an opportunity to share feedback based on the progress reporting session.

Professor Caradee Wright participated in various sessions for brainstorming funding opportunities in air pollution and health, who is hopeful in securing funding from the Clean Air Fund – furthering research on air pollution.

In the UK, air pollution has been recorded as a cause of death – therefore, Ms Rosamund Debra-Kissi was invited as a guest speaker at the event, relating what had befallen her daughter. Read more on her story here.

UK
Professor Caradee Wright attends the GEOHealth Training Workshop on Air Pollution Exposure Monitoring and Respiratory Health in Nairobi, Kenya

The training workshop on air pollution exposure monitoring and respiratory health was attended by Professor Caradee Wright in Nairobi, Kenya – from 6-9 March 2024 and hosted by the Eastern Africa GEOHealth Hub. This workshop was held to share progress made by the Hub on research relating to air pollution and respiratory health.

Professor Wright presented on the research conducted over nearly a decade – at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Climate Change and Health Programme – housed within the Environment & Health Research (E&HRU). Postgraduate student engagement made an impression on Professor Caradee Wright, who is hopeful of tapping into the young minds of researchers interested in joining within her team.

Read here for further information on the work done by the GEOHealth Hub.

Nairobi
Community engagement to provide feedback on the LEAP-Epi project findings

Dr Tracey Laban represented the SAMRC’s E&HRU at the community feedback sessions in Agincourt (Bushbuckridge) and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (Soweto) from 28 February to 5 March 2024 for the LEAP-Epi project.

The aim was to create awareness on health impacts of household air pollution and to share the project findings with the study participants and community advisory board members. Dr Laban gave a presentation on air pollution and its health effects and participated in the question-and-answer sessions regarding levels of air pollution and exposure in homes – engaging with individual community members on their issues of concern. There is no accurate knowledge of exposure to ambient and household air pollution for large numbers of people in urban and rural South Africa. Therefore, this project is quite significant (which is in partnership with University of Leicester, Wits University, North-West University) – as it provides an opportunity to gather much-needed exposure data from low-cost samplers and surveys – that can be linked with health outcomes to improve burden of disease estimates for household air pollution in South Africa. Such data will also have applicability more broadly to sub-Saharan Africa and other low- or middle-income countries – contributing to ongoing research and publications. The project is expected to be finalised at the end of March 2024.

Presentation at Adonai Church, Agincourt

Presentation at Adonai Church, Agincourt

Presentation at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto

Explaining the different types of particulate matter and sources of air pollution

Presentation at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto
E&HRU visits Usinga SAPRIN Node in uMlazi, Durban

The Environmental & Health Research (E&HRU) team visited the Usinga SAPRIN Node in Durban, on 27th February 2024. The purpose of this event was to learn about the Usinga project's initiatives in the uMlazi community, to showcase SAPRIN's work and explore potential collaboration opportunities, particularly in conducting wastewater surveillance studies in the same area.

During the event, the SAPRIN team provided insights into their ongoing work in uMlazi. Following this, the EHRU team joined the fieldwork in uMlazi. This provided an opportunity to meet other team members and observe the condition of the uMlazi River, including nearby activities. This also allowed the EHRU team to identify potential threats to the uMlazi River; although the river may not be used for drinking, it is utilized by children for swimming and domestic purposes like laundry.

The importance of community engagement was emphasized throughout the visit, with the Usinga project employing over 60 community members in various roles. This not only builds trust but also demonstrates the community's involvement and support for the project. Witnessing this trust firsthand during interactions with community members further underscored the significance of community engagement in research initiatives.

USINGAUSINGA
Writers retreat, Nairobi 2024

Professor Caradee Wright (Chief Specialist Scientist), Dr Thandi Kapwata (Specialist Scientist) and Ms Candice Webster (Scientist) of the Climate Change and Health Research Programme: E&HRU, attended a retreat for the “State of data science in Africa” writing project which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 26 February to 1 March 2024. This project is supported by the NIH, APHRC and several partner organizations and its aim is to produce a collection of scientific papers describing the state of data science for health in Africa – to be published in the Nature portfolio of journals. The E&HRU team leads two review articles focusing on the application of data science in investigating climate change and air pollution related health challenges in Africa.

During the retreat, teams were provided dedicated writing time, opportunities to engage with other teams on overlapping topics and an opportunity to map the way forward to final submission. The E&HRU team is grateful for the opportunity to engage with the other writing teams and the project’s scientific co-chairs and believes its contribution to the collection will provide valuable insight into the importance of data science in environment and health research in Africa.

Writing retreat
E&HRU visits UCT Future Water Hub in Franschhoek

The Environment and Health Research Unit (E&HRU) visited the abandoned wastewater treatment works (WWTW) plant on 9 February in Franschhoek, hosted by the UCT Future Water team – led by Dr Kevin Winter – who showcased the application of nature-based solutions (NbS) in rehabilitating Stiebeuelrivier. By using biofilters (with vegetation, stones, and biochar) to clean and treat water from contaminated surface water runoff originating from an informal settlement (Langrug) upstream, the researchers demonstrated a tangible approach to environmental remediation.

One highlight was the demonstration of the biofiltration systems used in treating the contaminated water. Comparing treated and untreated water for crop irrigation provided a practical illustration of the efficacy of biofiltration systems. inspiring the broader community about the potential of nature-based solutions in water management and environmental conservation.   Overall, the event served as a platform for showcasing innovative research, fostering future collaboration and camaraderie.

Other projects like the 'Cool' Shack project added further dimensions to the event, showing a holistic approach to addressing environmental and social challenges in informal settlements and raising awareness about the importance of nature-based solutions in environmental remediation and sustainable water management.

Water Hub

E&HRU Strategic Planning Meeting for 2024

The Environment and Health Research Unit (E&HRU) team recently convened a pivotal strategic planning meeting from 5-8 February 2024, in Noordhoek Cape Town. Each day was planned to provide a blend of introspective reflection and strategic foresight, ensuring each E&HRU team member could contribute to and benefit from the discussions at hand. With a clear strategic plan in place, the E&HRU is equipped to advance their research agenda, aiming to make significant contributions to the field of environmental health. The team left Noordhoek with a collection optimism, ready to embark on a year of meaningful research, impactful collaborations and continued personal and professional growth.

Strategic Planning Meeting

 

Professor Caradee Wright attends the kick-off meeting for the PLANET4HEALTH project in Venice, Italy

E&HRU chief specialist scientist Professor Caradee Wright attended a kick-off meeting for the PLANET4HEALTH project in Venice Italy between 25-26 January – facilitated by Ca’ Foscari University.

The project is funded by a Horizon Europe grant – enabling all teams to meet and present case studies and work packages, for the next four years – as PLANET4HEALTH seeks to make planetary health research understandable to the public and policymakers using the applications and platforms. With such a large but cohesive cohort, Professor Wright is confident that South Africa’s case study on air pollution and health can be used to develop a new tool for its citizens.

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planet

2023

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Dr Renée Street presents on wastewater surveillance at the South African Science Forum

In a dynamic session at the recent South African Science Forum (4-6 December 2023), Dr Renée Street shared insights into the transformative role of wastewater-based epidemiology in supporting public health. Dr Street highlighted the need for further exploration and investment into this promising field, particularly as a key component to bolster pandemic preparedness. The session, moderated by Dr Bernd Gawlik of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), brought together global leaders. The collaborative efforts showcased in this session underscore the importance of a global alliance in advancing public health and environmental monitoring.

Science Forum

 

Science Forum South Africa: Engagement Activities

Between 4 and 8 December, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research International Convention Centre (CSIR) hosted the South Africa Science Forum – in Pretoria – together with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Science Diplomacy Capital for Africa Initiative.

The event showcased what role science, technology and innovation play in society –in partnership with government and other stakeholders which include: the scientific community, industry, students, and civil society.

Mr Sizwe Nkambule ran an exhibition stand showcasing how wastewater-based epidemiology relates to science – also emphasizing technology and innovation programmes set out in the Decadal Plan: including the ‘Innovation for a healthy population’ – which focuses on pandemics. There was also an activity capturing delegates’ responses around water-related issues.

The Environment &Health Research Unit’s (E&HRU) Wastewater Surveillance and Research Programme exhibition demonstrated wastewater-based epidemiology’s potential as a health screening tool in effectively communicating results to public health stakeholders and the public. Stakeholders from various government, private sector, scientific and higher education institutions expressed interest in using wastewater-based epidemiology to align with their work. Throughout the Science Forum, many high school students were noted, indicating an interest in science and innovation among the country’s youth population.

Science Forum
Professor Caradee Wright attends the BRICS Academies Forum 2023

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) hosted the BRICS Academies Forum 2023, in Pretoria on 1-2 December – as part of an Inter-Academy Collaboration on the Global Polycrisis. This conference aimed to bring all BRICS countries’ academies together to present their perspectives and understanding of the polycrisis (in relation to the pandemic and economic challenges). The conference was also a platform for the represented BRICS academies to offer solutions to the polycrisis, as well as initiate collaboration in combatting the polycrisis – enforcing the sense of collegiality among the BRICS academies. As part of the ASSAf delegation, Professor Caradee Wright gave a presentation on the impacts of the polycrisis on human health in BRICS countries.

BRICS
Dr Busisiwe Shezi attends workshop on: The Changing Landscape of occupational hygiene: Challenges and opportunities presented by real time exposure data

The North-West University hosted a workshop on: The Changing Landscape of occupational hygiene: Challenges and opportunities presented by real time exposure data, on 29-30 November 2023.

Along with other practitioners, Dr Busisiwe Shezi attended a workshop and toured the Occupational Hygiene and Health Research Initiative (OHHRI) on campus – in Potchefstroom. Equipment measuring environmental and occupational exposure – including ergonomic, noise, ventilation and air pollution assessments were displayed. Current trends in occupational hygiene were also highlighted – emphasizing the use of real-time exposure data.

Dr Shezi gained insights into advanced data collection techniques; applicable for environmental and occupational exposure assessments – beneficial for future projects. Challenges with real-time data were addressed – facilitating networking between those in the field of environmental and occupational health.

NWU
Dr Thandi Kapwata visits the Application Laboratory in JAMSTEC in Yokohama, Japan

Dr Thandi Kapwata visited the Application Laboratory in JAMSTEC in Yokohama, Japan, from 27 November to 2 December 2023, as a part of an ongoing JSPS-NRF bilateral project. During this meeting, Dr Kapwata presented at the APL-CMCC Workshop on “Empowering Human Wellbeing through Advances in Climate Analysis and Prediction” held on 29-30 November 2023. Lessons learned during interactions with colleagues at this time will also be utilised to inform existing work dealing with climate related research with the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) Environment and Health Research Unit (E&HRU). It is also hoped that further collaborations will result with stakeholders involved in this project.

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Professor Caradee Wright participates in, The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Member Conference 2023

On 9 November 2023, The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) hosted its member conference at the Lord Charles Hotel in Cape Town. The conference centred around the topic of ‘Mitigating the polycrisis – An ASSAf approach.’  Participants at the conference discussed ways in which polycrises such as the pandemic and economic downturns affecting South Africa can be addressed.

During the conference, there were various activities such as group discussions. Professor Caradee Wright, who was in attendance, chaired one such discussion on mitigating the causes and consequences of the polycrisis in South Africa and presented the group’s discussion to the plenary.

ASSAF
Dr Renée Street invited to present on global discourse of wastewater surveillance in Hong Kong

Dr Renée Street was invited as a guest speaker to attend the Global Convening to Scale Wastewater Surveillance, which took place in Hong Kong on 25-26 October 2023. The technical convening, organized by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trust – with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, focused on sharing scientific experiences related to wastewater-based epidemiology. Dr Street joined leading scientists in environmental microbiology, epidemiology and engineering from around the world, to discuss the surveillance and monitoring of pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in wastewater. The event included keynote presentations, plenary discussions, and roundtable sessions (covering topics such as initiation, coordination and implementation of wastewater surveillance, mapping and sampling, leveraging surveillance data for big data analytics, and laboratory methods from qPCR and meta-genomics). Dr Renée Street’s participation contributed a critical perspective to the global conversation on wastewater surveillance. Moreover, the global convening emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts in advancing global health though wastewater surveillance.

Hong Kong

Professor Caradee Wright attended the two-day International Research Livestock Institute One-Health meeting in Nairobi, Kenya

As an Advisory Committee member of the One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa (OHRECA) (https://www.ilri.org/research/facilities/one-health-centre-africa), Professor Caradee Wright attended the 2-day meeting on the 2nd and 3rd October 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. OHRECA is hosted by the International Research Livestock Institute and aims to enhance animal, human and the environment health by supporting applied research in one health, developing capacity in one health and developing pathways from policy to practice. Having existed for three years, and with two years still to go, the Advisory Committee met to receive feedback on OHRECA from the Team Leaders and postgraduate students working on OHRECA work packages. As the SAMRC plans to develop research in the area of one health, this was an excellent opportunity for Professor Wright to garner knowledge on the issues facing Africa in one health and identify research gaps.

AC group
One Health: Environmental Exposures Seminar | 26-27 September 2023

Around the world, there is growing concern about our changing environment. For example, climate change and rising temperatures contribute to the movement of zoonotic hosts and vectors to different elevations and latitudes, bringing unfamiliar exposures to vulnerable human and animal populations. At the same time, adverse weather events may compromise the fundamental pillars of public health, such as floods – leading to the overflow of wastewater treatment facilities and consequent waterborne disease outbreaks. There is also growing concern about the accumulation of persistent toxic substances in the environment and in the fatty tissues of animals, that lead to distribution of pollutants to humans through the food pathway, such as metals in fish, for example.

In recent decades, there has been a growing realization that addressing these complex environmental and health challenges requires a systematic approach. The One Health approach encompasses the interconnection of environmental, animal, and human health as key outcomes. It provides a holistic framework to engage with these challenges in an integrated way, ensuring the well-being of all living beings and our shared environment.

One Health

This year, in conjunction with World Environmental Health Day, the Environment & Health Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council, (SAMRC) in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg (UJ), hosted a seminar. The event was organized to learn more about various activities and actions taking place in relation to Chemical Exposures, Air Pollution, Climate Change and One Health. It also aimed to develop a research agenda on One Health. The seminar brought together a diverse group of participants, including representatives from various government departments (such as  the Department of Health, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development), the City of Johannesburg, the Water Research Commission, the National Research Foundation, National Institute for Occupational Health, the South African Lead Task Team, several universities (the universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch, the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe and the University of Antwerp in Belgium), as well as non-governmental organizations such as Birdlife South Africa and Four Paws.

This seminar provided a platform for exchanging information and sparked insightful discussions aimed at advancing the field of One Health in South Africa. Additionally, we identified key research areas of priority within the domain of One Health.

The seminar was made possible through sponsorship from the National Research Foundation and the South African Medical Research Council.

One Health
Dr Busisiwe Shezi attends the 35th Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE2023)

On 17 to 21 September 2023, Dr Busisiwe Shezi attended the 35th Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology in Kaohsiung, Taiwan – being one of the recipients of the Wartenberg travel award. The International Society for Environmental Epidemiology hosted the event, and its theme was on, “Connecting the East and the West, One Health in One Planet.”

Dr Shezi presented a research paper on, “Indoor particulate matter heavy metals and their potential health risks in low socio-economic communities.” She also gained invaluable insights into cutting-edge methodologies and approaches for evaluating health outcomes and their determinants, noting that these innovative techniques not only broaden the horizons of her current research projects, but also provide a forward-looking perspective on approaching future studies. Furthermore, awardees discussed their areas of research and explored the potential for collaborative work. This interaction was significant as it allowed opportunities to connect with professionals with shared research interests, as well as facilitating networking within the field of One Health.

ISEETaiwan2023
Dr Busisiwe Shezi participates in the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA 2023) Conference in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, in Gqeberha

Dr Busisiwe Shezi participated in the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA 2023) Conference in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in Gqeberha, on 10 to 13 September 2023. The event was hosted by the Public Health Association of South Africa and had the theme of, “Transforming Research Translation-Reimagining Public Health Evidence, Policies and Practice.”

Dr Shezi presented a research paper on, “Indoor particulate matter heavy metals and their potential health risks in low socio-economic communities” and saw the conference as a platform for the exchange of research findings, methodologies, and best practices in the field of public health. This directly aligns with Dr Shezi’s current research interests and is invaluable. Additionally, Dr Busisiwe Shezi found the planetary session on, “strengthening health systems to deliver quality mental health care” particularly noteworthy.

PHASA
Professor Caradee Wright presents a case study on heat-health interventions in Trieste, Italy

Between 5 and 7 September 2023, Professor Caradee Wright attended the Inter Academy Partnership (IAP) and Save The Children’s workshop on Climate Change and Health in Trieste, Italy. Professor Wright was selected as one of 15 participants to present a case study on heat-health interventions. Her case study was focussed on interventions to prevent adverse heat-health impacts in healthcare settings in rural South Africa, aligning with the SAMRC’s efforts related to the National Health Action Plan.  The case studies of all participants will be compiled into a book published by IAP that presents science-based policy solutions for climate change and health challenges. This workshop was hosted by IAP at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics. Highlights of the workshop were the collegiality between the case study participants, a delicious Italian pizza in the town of Trieste, and helpful feedback from the reviewers for improvement of the case studies ahead of publication.

SeptemberSeptember
Drs Renée Street and Busisiwe Shezi collaborate in revising the One Health Framework for South Africa in line with the Quadripartite

Dr Renée Street and Dr Busisiwe Shezi actively participated in a One Health Workshop from 4 – 7 September 2023 led by the National Department of Health. This workshop aimed to strengthen collaboration in the animal-human-environment interface and harmonize the South African One Health strategy with the global One Health Joint Plan of Action of the Quadripartite (FAO, UNEP, WHO, OIE). Given the profound interconnections between animal and ecosystem health, notably underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic, this initiative signifies South Africa’s commitment to such a global endeavor. Therefore, South Africa is actively refining its national One Health Strategic Framework to align with the global strategy and policy. The initiative is fostering collaborations among stakeholders at national, regional and international levels.

One Health
Professor Caradee Wright, Drs Thandi Kapwata and Tracey Laban attend the LEAP-Epi Outputs Workshop to discuss the research findings

Professor Caradee Wright, Dr Thandi Kapwata and Dr Tracey Laban attended the LEAP-Epi Outputs Workshop from 29 August to 1 September 2023 in Muldersdrift, Gauteng. LEAP-Epi is a four-year project (which will end in March 2024) on leveraging local air pollution data for epidemiological research. Air quality data was collected using low-cost sensors along with survey questionnaire data from households in two locations (Soweto – urban and Agincourt – rural) over two seasons. The aim of the workshop was to capture the learnings from the field, take a deep dive into the data, plan the journal articles to be written, develop the community feedback strategy and information materials and agree on future directions for the research. The consortium involved in the project are University of Leicester, Wits University, North-West University and SAMRC. It was a productive week of contributions by all project partners, made more enriching by the in-person interactions and capacity building sessions where introduction to R to process questionnaire data, tips to build academic writing skills and guest speaker presentations on epidemiological research formed part of the programme.

Workshop
Professor Caradee Wright presents at an Air Quality Workshop in Tshwane, Pretoria (2023)

The City of Tshwane is concerned about air pollution in the city. Therefore, they hosted an Air Quality Workshop at Tshwane House on 28 August 2023. The theme was: "Climate Action Plan: A net-zero carbon and climate resilient city by 2050.” Professor Caradee Wright presented at the first session of the day in the session on Research Community, speaking about, “Air Pollution and Health in South Africa.” The presentation discussed the inequities associated with health pollution exposure and the associated burden of disease in South Africa. Professor Wright also spoke about air quality levels in the City of Tshwane and its association with hospital admissions for respiratory disease. The presentation received positive responses; connections made at the workshop will lead to future collaborations, as well as overall environmental changes within the municipality.

Air Quality Workshop Air Quality Workshop

Drs Tracey Laban and Nomfundo Mahlangeni attend the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Advisory Forum meeting (24 August 2023)

Dr Tracey Laban and Dr Nomfundo Mahlangeni attended the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Advisory Forum meeting on 24 August 2023, hosted by the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre, in Cape Town. The quarterly meetings aim to create a platform for muti-sectoral integration towards disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response, and recovery. Various disaster management stakeholders in the Western Cape came together to discuss disaster management activities across the province as well as lessons learnt from previous disasters. More importantly, the need for improved early warning systems also formed part of the forum discussions. Added to this, the meeting highlighted the importance of addressing risk reduction and adaptation to reduce the vulnerabilities to disasters. Therefore, our team has subsequently reviewed the Western Cape Hazmat Response Plan, to ensure climate change is addressed in the plan. Suggestions have also been tabled for a response to floods and wildfires to be included in the plan.

Professor Caradee Wright and Dr Thandi Kapwata attend a FHERA writing workshop in Nairobi, Kenya

Professor Caradee Wright and Dr Thandi Kapwata attended a meeting of the Climate Change and Environment Working Group meeting of the Lancet Commission on Future of Health and Economic Resiliency in Africa (FHERA). The meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 21 to 23 August 2023. It was a writing workshop. The writing workshop’s main objectives were to finalize several manuscripts that are being prepared by the working group. Additionally, draft chapters for a book that has been planned by FHERA Core Panel and to chart next steps for future activities of the working group were also part of the agenda of things needing further preparation.

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Dr Renée Street gives keynote address on Science Advice and Science Diplomacy in Kenya
Dr Renée Street gave a keynote address during a session on Science Advice and Science Diplomacy, which was organized by the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC). The keynote was followed by a panel discussion. This session was part of the Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC 2023) Symposium. The symposium was held in Nairobi, Kenya on 22 to 25 August 2023. During the session, attendees were taken on a thought-provoking journey into the intersection of science, policy and global cooperation. Additionally, during her keynote address, Dr Street offered insightful reflections on the science-policy interface and highlighted the pivotal need for addressing global challenges. Furthermore, Dr Street emphasized that effective communication and collaboration between scientists and policymakers are essential for translating scientific advancements into impactful policy.
E&HRU’s Annual Writing Retreat (2023)

The Environment and Health Research Unit (E&HRU) scientists went on an annual writing retreat from July 31  to August 4, 2023 – which was hosted at the Intundla Game Lodge, located on the outskirts of Pretoria. Its location added an extra layer of inspiration to the retreat, given the lodge’s picturesque surroundings which fostered a blend of productivity and tranquillity.

During the retreat, the team engaged in intensive writing sessions and harnessed the power of collective focus and expertise to advance their ongoing research endeavors. Sharing ideas, brainstorming and exploring potential avenues for collaborative projects were the order of the day.  The retreat also featured an educational session that enhanced the team’s skills and knowledge for crafting effective policy briefs – which is an essential aspect of scientific communication.  

During mealtimes, the group gathered together to discuss their progress, share challenges and celebrate accomplishments which solidified camaraderie beyond the academic sphere. Additionally, the group walk added an element of enjoyment to the retreat, where informal discussions touching on different topics ranging from personal experiences, shared interests and aspirations were had. The 2023 writing retreat was a success; scientists provided positive feedback overall. We are looking forward to the 2024 edition!

Writing Retreat
Dr Renée Street participates in Clim-Health Africa meeting in Libreville, Gabon

In July 2023, Dr Renée Street attended the Clim-Health Africa event which took place in Libreville, Gabon. The main objective of the 2023 Clim-Health Africa meeting was to build on the 2017 roundtable recommendations, as well as the work done by the consortium partners. Discussions around emergency prevention and management actors in Africa regarding more collaborative work in the region also formed part of the meeting. Dr Street actively provided insights on the capacity building needs for the multisectoral work necessary to properly consider the climate dimension in the resilience of health systems. The meeting also allowed partners to discuss emerging issues and how to make climate services and the Clim-Health Africa Network more responsive to both emerging policy agendas and user needs in Africa.

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Dr Renée Street participates in workshop to adapt the 3rd edition of the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) to the South African context

The recent presidential health summit has identified pandemic preparedness as one of the pillars of the presidential social health compact – which requires the implementation of Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR). IDSR is a strategy adopted by countries in the WHO African Region for implementing comprehensive public health surveillance and response systems for priority diseases, conditions and events at all levels of health systems. In July 2023, Dr Renée Street participated in an intensive 5-day workshop to adapt the 3rd edition of the IDSR to the South African context. Active contributions were made to the review of the current surveillance system and the development of a strategic framework to strengthen the national surveillance and response system. This will improve the detection of priority diseases and public health events on time, allowing prompt initiation of requisite investigations and responses to reduce associated morbidity and mortality.

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IDSR workshop, July 2023 

Dr Renée Street awarded a scholarship to attend the 2023 UN Summer Academy

The UN Summer Academy is a dynamic, connected and engaging critical global forum for advancing sustainable development. The one-week virtual learning experience, which took place in June 2023, provided a platform to foster inclusive exchanges to build skills and knowledge to address global challenges. Participants engaged in robust discussions and knowledge exchanges on ‘Governance for Sustainable Development.’ Its sub-themes included Multilevel Governance, Green and Just Transitions, and Governance for the Future; identified as critical focus areas of the governance lever for sustainable development. Dr Renée Street was grateful for the opportunity to obtain a scholarship to attend the virtual meeting.

UN Summer Academy
Professor Caradee Wright appointed as Deputy Editor of the Journal of Health and Pollution – sister journal to Environmental Health Perspectives

The Journal of Health and Pollution (JHP) has been relaunched by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) and aims to to publish high-quality research, reviews, and commentaries that address environmental health in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) or indigenous communities. Additionally, the original mission of JHP was to facilitate a discussion of toxic pollution and its impacts to human health. The journal will therefore continue this work in its new iteration, with “pollution” defined more broadly to include a wider range of environmental health topics of interest to scientists and policy makers. Professor Caradee Wright initially served on the advisory committee to help shape the scope of JHP and was then nominated and selected as one of six Deputy Editors for the journal – on 6 June 2023. Given Professor Wright’s extensive knowledge working on environmental health issues in Africa, especially regarding air pollution and climate change-related health impacts, she will greatly enhance the content of JHP. Moreover, with her vast experience serving as associate editor and editor in chief of various national and international journals, Professor Wright will ensure that the quality of articles published by JHP will be of the highest quality and contribute towards policy development as well as guide future research.

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Dr Renée Street appointed as Section Editor for Journal of Water and Health

Dr Renée Street has been appointed as wastewater-based epidemiology Section Editor for the Journal of Water and Health. Given her extensive expertise in studying the presence of pathogens and chemicals in the environment, Dr Street’s appointment brings immense value to the journal. In her role as Section Editor, Dr Street will oversee the publication of cutting-edge research papers on wastewater-based epidemiology – ensuring the dissemination of high-quality and impactful studies. This appointment reflects the growing recognition of the significance of wastewater-based epidemiology, to monitor disease outbreaks and guide public health interventions. Dr Street’s leadership is poised to advance the journal’s role in shaping policy and practice related to water and health issues globally.

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Dr Renée Street invited to join committee of experts for Uganda National Academy of Science (UNAS) Climate Change Preparedness Consensus Study

The Uganda National Academy of Science (UNAS) has invited Dr Renée Street to join a committee of experts dedicated to climate change, preparedness, response and action.  Climate change presents a unique opportunity for Uganda to reimagine how it responds to persistent development challenges. This study will use a climate change perspective to foster greater ownership and more sustainable community action enhancing national resilience and development.

The committee of experts will assess and analyze existing scientific evidence related to climate change, preparedness, response and action. The study aims to reach a collective agreement on the most crucial aspects of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies. The findings of the study can guide key stakeholders including policy makers and communities in formulating effective measures to address and respond to the challenges posed by climate change.

Reshaping Science Perceptions for the Youth: E&HRU participates in the Gen S Job-shadowing Programme from 26-29 June 2023

In celebration of Youth Month in June, the E&HRU (along with other research units and support divisions), participated in the Gen S Job-shadowing Programme. It was hosted by the Corporate and Marketing Communications department from 26 to 29 June 2023 – taking place at the SAMRC’s Cape Town campus in the Western Cape.

This Gen S Job-shadowing Programme offered a way to shape potential up-and-coming scientists’ minds, so that they are equipped for contributing meaningfully within the scientific community. The Programme also aimed to give the learners practical experience by involving them in day-to-day research work and support staff duties.

The E&HRU team demonstrated different technology and equipment used to test water quality. During fieldwork, the importance of rivers and estuaries for environmental and public health was highlighted. Work within the Wastewater Surveillance and Research Programme (WSARP) was also showcased. Learners developed and presented a knowledge mobilization plan to raise awareness on an environmental issue – within their own community; guided by the E&HRU team. They were also shown how to construct experiments and develop hypotheses for a water filtration experiment. The team was pleased that perceptions around scientific research and creating a safe and healthy environment were reshaped through this event.

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Dr Renée Street and Mr Sizwe Nkambule attended a consultative stakeholders’ meeting regarding COVID-19 and cholera surveillance in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape Province on 8 June 2023

The E&HRU made great strides regarding the surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater, since the COVID-19 pandemic began – to curb its spread. Now, similar efforts are being made to fight against South Africa’s current cholera outbreak.

E&HRU representatives, Dr Renée Street and Mr Sizwe Nkambule, addressed stakeholders during a consultative meeting held in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality – at their Gqeberha offices in the Eastern Cape province. The Department of Public Health in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality hosted the event on 8 June 2023. Results and trends on wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 RNA were shared at the consultive meeting – for public health purposes. A Nelson Mandela University laboratory facilities tour then followed.

Mr Nkambule delivered a presentation focussing on the SARS-CoV-2 RNA signal in wastewater data, which aligned with different COVID-19 resurgences. The E&HRU also affirmed its strong commitment to increasing capacity to support the municipality’s pandemic preparedness. Dr Street further highlighted that collaborating with various departments within the municipality and determining how the wastewater surveillance platform is used for stakeholders’ needs, is essential. Discussions between the SAMRC, NMU and the municipality will continue regarding offering support to the municipality’s current cholera surveillance efforts.

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Professor Caradee Wright together with Drs Tracey Laban and Nomfundo Mahlangeni participated in the Sub-committee of the National Department of Health focus group meeting on Health Air Quality and Health on 2 June 2023 at the SAMRC (Pretoria campus)

Professor Caradee Wright, Dr Tracey Laban and Dr Nomfundo Mahlangeni participated in the sub-committee meeting of the National Department of Health (NDOH) focus group meeting on Health Air Quality and Health, which planned and developed a strategy in relation to air quality and health in South Africa – hosted at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)’s Pretoria campus on 2 June 2023.

The strategy’s 5-year plan was discussed. Identifying stakeholders, promoting the development strategy and gathering information useful to the state, professionals, practitioners and other researchers, also formed part of meeting discussions. Representatives from the NDOH – Elliot Nontso and Bono Nemukula; including Joyce Shirinde from the University of Pretoria (UP), worked with Professor Wright and her team in formulating a proposal detailing a strategy to combat issues on air pollution and health.

The SAMRC, in collaboration with the National Department of Health and other stakeholders, are uniting in the fight against air pollution and its negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of citizens. After the strategy’s development, the SAMRC will continue to assist government and facilitate its implementation. Additionally, the strategy will identify research gaps and opportunities which will help inform current research within the Environment and Health Research Unit (EHRU).

Air Quality Focus

Dr Caradee Wright attends the annual Health Effects Institute (HEI) conference in Boston, U.S.A. between 30 April and 2 May 2023

Dr Caradee Wright attended the annual Health Effects Institute (HEI) conference in Boston, in the United States of America – from 30 April 2023 to 2 May 2023. The conference was hosted by the Health Effects Institute and focused on discussing and sharing the latest research relating to air pollution. Various scholars, as well as students funded by the Health Effects Institute were present at the conference.

Caradee Wright gave a background talk called, ‘Different threats, same solutions’ which opened the main session. Afterwards, Caradee co-chaired a conference session on, ‘Addressing Air Pollution and Climate Change with Shared Solutions.’

Overall, Caradee was impressed by the presentations given at the conference and feels inspired to follow suit with her fellow researchers in air pollution and implement similar strategies on home soil in South Africa. Moreover, Caradee Wright plans to work closely with the Health Effects Institute, given that she is also a member of the Health Effects Institute Global Health Oversight Committee.

See the below links for more information:

Dr Caradee Wright
Photo courtesy of Paul Schnaittacher.
Dr Caradee Wright attended a Health Effects Institute Workshop on Air Pollution and Human Health in Nairobi, Kenya

CaradeeDr Caradee Wright attended a workshop on air pollution and human health in East Africa, hosted by the Health Effects Institute, USA – from 29 March to 31 March. Stakeholders and organisations (at various levels), researching and monitoring air pollution in East Africa – particularly from Kenya and Uganda, were present at the event. Discussions around workable strategies regarding collaboration and increasing technical expertise on air pollution and health were had. Reviewing the status of current data and evidence on air quality and health risks relating to the topic alongside policies, formed the lively debates had at the workshop.  

Caradee was a member of the workshop organising committee; giving a keynote presentation, titled, Air Pollution and Human Health in Africa and a training lecture on the burden of disease studies about ambient air pollution and household air pollution in South Africa. She also chaired a group discussion on ideas for how HEI can help establish human health and air pollution research and activities in the region. Further, a funding call for research in the region will be disseminated and the SAMRC can apply.

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Drs Caradee Wright and Tracey Laban attend a bi-weekly meeting with Tshwane Taxi Industry (TTI), in Pretoria

Dr Caradee Wright and Dr Tracey Laban attended the bi-weekly meeting with Tshwane Taxi Industry (TTI) on 17 April – called Bi-weekly meeting with Tshwane Taxi Industry (TTI): Operation Inner-city Decongestion & Clean-up. The event was hosted by the Menlyn Taxi Association and the City of Tshwane, taking place at the Menlyn Taxi Association House, at Gezina. Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) was also part of the meeting with the Tshwane Taxi Industry to discuss easing traffic flow and cleaning up the inner city.

Caradee presented findings of the baseline work done for the NRF-funded Climate-proofing taxi ranks project and shared the results of the survey questionnaire given to commuters and taxi drivers in December 2022; also requesting feedback on these findings. Further, stakeholders had to advise on the proposed interventions and way forward for the project as it enters its second phase of implementation.

Given that this was a bi-weekly meeting, collaborations between the Environment and Health Research Unit (EHRU) and the Tshwane Taxi Industry (TTI) are ongoing. The EHRU is committed to implementing feedback received at the meeting, which will assist in furthering research and addressing the needs and concerns of the TTI.

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Dr Tracey Laban attends a Training Session on domestic indoor air quality in the Nkangala District Municipality in Middelburg, Mpumalanga province

Dr Tracey Laban attended a training session on domestic indoor air quality in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, on 30 March. The session was hosted by the National Department of Health (NDOH). Environmental Health Practitioners from the Nkangala District Municipality were trained regarding implementing the Indoor Air Quality Guidelines developed by the NDOH in partnership with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to address air pollution and poor health. Tracey gave a presentation on domestic indoor air quality studies done by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). A keen interest was noted in low-cost sensors (being used in the field by the SAMRC) and a request was made for a demonstration of the instruments’ capabilities. Discussions on the baseline assessment for the Eskom air quality offsets project ensued and SAMRC was encouraged to continue with baseline studies and health monitoring in order to provide an independent assessment. The session was also attended by Groundwork, (an NGO), who emphasized that government and industry should ensure air quality improvement interventions that work and do not place an additional financial burden on vulnerable communities.

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Professor Caradee Wright and Dr Thandi Kapwata attend a Climate Change Research Conference on 9-10 March 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa

Professor Caradee Wright and Dr Thandi Kapwata attended a research conference on climate change in Pretoria, on 9 and 10 March 2023. The event was hosted by the City of Tshwane, in partnership with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) – at the Tshwane House Council Chamber.

Professor Wright chaired the session entitled, “Sustainable consumption and production”, and Dr Kapwata presented on her topic entitled, “An analysis of past and future heatwaves based on a heat-associated mortality threshold: towards a heat health warning system.”

The conference also offered valuable opportunities for networking with stakeholders and potential collaborators within the climate change sphere.

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Dr Nomfundo Mahlangeni attends the SAMRC’s RCD Grant Holder’s Annual Meeting

Dr Nomfundo Mahlangeni attended the SAMRC’s RCD Grant Holder’s Annual Meeting which took place on 8 and 9 March 2023 and was held at the SAMRC in Cape Town. She was awarded the SAMRC professional development programme fellowship as a postdoctoral research fellow on 1 October 2022. This was Nomfundo’s first Grant Holder’s meeting which was organized by the Division of Research Capacity Development (RCD) of the SAMRC. The meeting afforded the chance for grant holders to showcase their research. Its theme was entitled, ‘Building research leadership for societal impact.’

Presentations were given by postdoctoral fellows, early-career, and mid-career scientists from various subdisciplines in health sciences.

The meeting facilitated networking, fostered collaborations, as well as the sharing of ideas and experiences between scientists from various career levels. Nomfundo enjoyed hearing about the work of her peers and shared her perspectives, particularly from an environmental health viewpoint.

Overall, great interactions were had between grant holders, SAMRC board members and SAMRC executive committee members.

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Dr Nomfundo Mahlangeni and colleagues in the SAMRC Intramural Postdoctoral Fellowships Programme at the SAMRC’s RCD Grant Holder’s Annual Meeting.

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Dr Renée Street visits University of São Paulo in Brazil (March 2023)

Dr Renée Street visited the University of São Paulo (Brazil) from 6-10 March 2023. She presented at a research symposium, hosted by the university, and gave a keynote lecture on heavy metal exposure in South Africa and related health risks with particular emphasis on the informal industry. A highlight of the trip was a visit to Limeira City, to understand the risks for the outsourced, home-based jewellery makers.  Issues around evidence gaps relating to exposure to toxic metals in local settings were discussed, as well as ways to prevent such exposure. The trip highlighted the importance of research innovation, as well as academic excellence through collaboration, networking and public engagement.

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Dr Street visiting the School of Public Health research laboratory at the University of São Paulo
Dr Caradee Wright participated in a Symposium on the Impact of Heat Stress on Newborn Health Outcomes 

Dr Caradee Wright participated in an online symposium on the impact of heat stress on the health outcomes of newborn babies, titled – ‘Adapting Health Systems to Protect Children from the Impact of Climate Change: A discussion series.’ It was held on 13 February 2023 and organised by UNICEF and the Child Health Taskforce. Caradee formed part of the symposium’s third session which discussed, ‘The Impact of Heat Stress on Newborn Health Outcomes: A Focus on Congenital Heart Defects.’ She gave a presentation and afterwards was part of a panel discussion for the Q&A session. Issues affecting pregnant people, infants, and children worldwide, were pertinent to the symposium’s discussion. Therefore, it is aligned with the Healthy Environments for Healthy Children framework, which indicates the environmental and climate risks affecting children worldwide and children’s rights to a healthy environment. Caradee also engaged in discussions with Child HeartLink and UNICEF about continuing their research through international collaboration. There is also the possibility of participating in two large international studies, which will inform local research directives within the SAMRC’s Environment and Health Research Unit. For Caradee, the symposium highlighted the importance of having surgeons and physicians on a research team when working on congenital anomalies.

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Dr Caradee Wright participated in the One Health Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya

Caradee Wright participated in the One Health Workshop hosted by the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi, Kenya, from 31 January 2023 to 2 February 2023. The purpose of the workshop was to identify research objectives for One Health across multiple disciplines. Caradee gave a presentation entitled, ‘Understanding the roles of One Health, climate change and environmental health in the pandemic: lessons from COVID-19 in South Africa.’ She also chaired a group at the researcher capacity development workshop, where participants discussed the value of mentoring. This made Caradee aware of the latest pressing research questions in One Health, which could also be used to shape the One Health agenda at the SAMRC. Many potential collaborators were present at the event and plans are being made regarding future collaborations. What stood out for Caradee at the workshop was that Kenyan people are very friendly and hearing about mentoring challenges faced by researchers across Africa, made her realise that they all face similar issues. The SAMRC looks forward to conducting research in One Health.

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Drs Thandi Kapwata and Caradee Wright attended the Global Change Conference in Bloemfontein, South Africa

Dr Thandi Kapwata and Dr Caradee Wright attended the Global Change Conference hosted by the University of Free State from 30 January 2023 to 2 February 2023. A keynote address was presented by Caradee and Thandi was a panellist at the Climate and Health session. This session was convened by Dr Neville Sweijd, from the Alliance for Collaboration on Climate & Earth Systems Science (ACCESS). The main aims of the 3-day side event were to facilitate a discussion among the research community on the establishment of a Research Alliance on Climate and Health and to set up a national extreme climate event working group.

Global Change     Global Change2

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Sizwe Nkambule attends the 2nd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) in Kigali, Rwanda

Sizwe Nkambule attended the 2nd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) in Kigali, Rwanda, from 13 to 15 December 2022. The CPHIA was organized to provide a unique platform for African researchers, policymakers and stakeholders to collaborate; sharing perspectives and research findings in public health. Creating strengthened scientific collaboration and innovation across the African continent, was emphasized at the conference. The CPHIA also sought to serve as a catalyst in building more resilient health systems in African countries. Such systems would allow these countries to better prepare for and manage emerging health threats, while also addressing long-standing infectious diseases. Sizwe’s poster presentation focused on using wastewater-based epidemiology to track COVID-19 in rural settings – within the Western Cape Province.

Public Health

Wastewater Surveillance and Research Programme (WSARP) First Conference

The Wastewater Surveillance and Research Programme (WSARP) held its first conference from 1-2 December 2022, under the theme, “Knowing where we are going, by knowing where we have been” – at the SAMRC Conference Centre, in Cape Town. Its purpose was to bring together WSARP partners, reflect on milestones, share experiences and lessons learnt in the field of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) and how these experiences can be leveraged for future novel research studies.

Key-note addresses were given by Prof Glenda Gray (detailing the SAMRC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic), as well as Dr Theodore Smith and Dr Rochelle Holm from the University of Louisville, USA. These researchers detailed their work in WBE in Louisville and Malawi respectively. A total of 12 research presentations were given during the conference from WSARP members (including young and emerging scientists), Waterlab and the University of Western Cape. These oral presentations covered wastewater related topics such as upstream sewage sampling, surveillance of defined and/or non-sewered communities, genomic sequencing, statistical modelling, science engagement and protecting groundwater for improved human health.

WSARP partners and stakeholders were also encouraged to network and exchange ideas on creating and strengthening collaboration and maintaining discussions for future grant applications.

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Drs Thandi Kapwata and Caradee Wright participated in the NIH / Nature State of Data Science in Africa writer’s retreat in Nairobi, Kenya

Thandi Kapwata and Caradee Wright attended the National Institute of Health / Nature Collection State of Data Science in Africa writer’s retreat in Nairobi, Kenya from 28 November 2022 to  1 December 2022. The project aimed to produce a collection of scientific papers that described the state of data science for health in Africa. These papers provided a benchmark for the current state of the field and highlighted the importance of data science for health. Additionally, the field of data science was further developed; in that new trends, opportunities, the exchanging of ideas and practices were discussed –   therefore stimulating new thinking. More importantly, the content of this collection will be led and driven by the African data science community, in alignment with the principles of open science and open access.

Nature    Nature

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Dr Caradee Wright presents at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Webinar on Heat and Maternal and Child Health on the 27 October 2022

Caradee Wright was one of five panel members who gave short presentations on the risk of heatwave and extreme heat on child and maternal health at the AGU webinar leading up to the Chapman conference on Climate and Health in Africa from 22-25 May 2023. Caradee spoke about the South African National Heat Action Plan Guidelines and the key elements required to make the guidelines effective for implementation and impact. The presentations were followed by a Q&A session with the attendees.

Website with programme and bios: https://www.agu.org/Chapmans-Climate-and-Health

Presenters

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Dr Caradee Wright attends ILRI One Health Research Education and Outreach Centre in Africa (OHRECA) Advisory Committee meeting in Nairobi (3-4 October 2022)

Caradee Wright attended the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) One Health Research Education and Outreach Centre in Africa (OHRECA) Advisory Committee meeting from 3 to 4 October 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya. The goal of the One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa is to improve the health of humans, animals and ecosystems through capacity building, strengthening of local, regional and global networks and provision of evidence-based policy advice on One Health in sub-Saharan Africa. The centre has four thematic areas: control of neglected tropical zoonotic diseases, emerging infectious diseases, food safety and informal markets, and prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance (One Health Centre in Africa | International Livestock Research Institute (ilri.org))

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Caradee serves as an Advisor to OHRECA and attended the meeting to hear about OHRECA’s past 6 month’s work. Project leaders presented their work packages and several postgraduate students presented their studies.

Dr Busisiwe Shezi attended the 34th Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology in Athens, Greece on 18 September 2022 to 21 September 2022

Dr Busisiwe Shezi attended the 34th Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology held in Athens, Greece, spanning from the 18th to the 21st of September 2022. The theme of the conference was, “Strengthening the global role of environmental epidemiology.”

During the conference, Dr Shezi engaged in various activities, including presenting a poster, attending different conference sessions, and networking with fellow attendees. The networking opportunities have resulted in Dr Shezi being part of a study on the impact of urban green spaces on climate sensitive health outcomes in Uganda. Dr Shezi also hopes to conduct research of a similar nature in South Africa. Additionally, the use of the exposome approach for studying the impact of the environment on health was a useful teaching point for Dr Shezi at the conference.

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Dr Busisiwe Shezi attended the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) conference in eThekwini, Durban on 11-14 September 2022

PHASADr Busisiwe Shezi attended the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) conference in eThekwini, Durban, between 11 and 14 September 2022. The conference aimed to bring various stakeholders and interested groups together, such as public health practitioners, young researchers, and students – to share their experiences, research and talk about relevant public health concerns and issues. Its theme was centred around, ‘Building Back Better: Public Health Resilience and Recovery.’

Dr Shezi presented a poster titled, 'Heavy metal contamination of soil in informal foundries and surrounding homes in South Africa’ and attended other sessions forming part of the conference.

Discussions on public health preparedness in managing climate change stood out for Dr Shezi. The conference also provided a platform to strengthen existing collaborative ties with researchers and establish new connections with others.

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Dr Caradee Wright speaks about Air Quality in our cities on eNCA

Dr Caradee Wright joined a conversation on eNCA with City of Tshwane’s Ms Katlego Mathebe (Environment and Agriculture Management MMC) and City of Ekurhuleni’s Mr Andre Du Plessis (Environment and Waste MMC) to talk about commitments made in their respective cities to improve air quality.

 

 

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Bianca Wernecke talks to Gugulethu Mfuphi on KhayaFM to talk about air quality in South African cities (25 May 2022)

The E&HRU’s Bianca Wernecke talks to Gugulethu Mfuphi of KhayaFM’s “KAYA BIZ” about air quality in South Africa’s big cities and what they are committing to doing to improve the air that we breathe!

 

 

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Important health tips to follow in the event of flooding
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Dr Caradee Wright talks about air pollution in Africa in video released by World Health Organization

Dr Caradee Wright talks about the major health impacts of air pollution in Africa, the key drivers of air pollution on the continent and how one can mitigate the causes and the impacts of air pollution.

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Too hot to handle? Dialogue on heatwaves in Cape Town

Cape Town, much like other cities in the global south is contending with a myriad of climate change-related challenges. While heatwaves have attracted little attention, they occupy a significant and urgent place on the local government agenda. In this context, on 25 February 2022, City of Cape Town and the EDP convened a Futurecasting dialogue titled ‘Too hot to handle? Tackling heatwaves in Cape Town’ about preparing for extreme heat events in the city.  

Dr Thandi Kapwata, Specialist Scientist with the South African Medical Council’s Environment & Health Research Unit provided an overview of current and future heatwaves in South Africa with a focus on their health impacts. Dr Kapwata also outlined the heat early warning systems based on health indicators that she is working on with colleagues at EHRU.

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Prof. Guéladio Cissé from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute visits the E&HRU

CisseOn Friday the 7th of February, the E&HRU in Johannesburg hosted Prof. Dr.  Guéladio Cissé, Ecosystem Health Sciences Unit (EHS), Department of Epidemiology, Swiss TPH, University of Basel, Switzerland. Key areas of discussion included preparation for their collaborative work on the impact of heat on cardiovascular diseases and the work on climate change and respiratory illness in Limpopo Province. The meeting was also aimed at discussing successes and challenges, as well as discussing logistics and planning of the projects. The meeting was concluded with a walkabout through the E&HRU offices and an introduction to all staff members.

 

 

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Dr Caradee Wright and Dr Thandi Kapwata from the SAMRC’s Environment and Health Research Unit present at the preparatory webinar for the “66th session of the commission on the status of Women” (a collaborative effort between Ilitha Labantu, AWIF and UN Women)

In preparation for this year’s Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Dr Wright and Dr Kapwata spoke about how extreme heat is associated with increased heat-related morbidity and mortality, inter-personal violence and peer violence (including Gender-based violence) and worsened mental health, including feelings of emotional distress, anger and feelings of helplessness. As Climate Change has been quoted, by the Lancet Commission on Climate Change, to be “the greatest threat of the 21st Century”, and as South Africa will be disproportionately affected by a warming climate, it is important that we are made aware of the associated risks, but also the possible solutions.

View or download the Climate change and violence presentation