Two prominent female researchers at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) have been awarded Research Chairs in their respective fields.
This brings the total number of research chairs at the Faculty to 12.
The new SARChI chairs are Prof Xikombiso Mbhenyane, head of the Division of Human Nutrition, and Prof Quinette Louw, executive head of the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Division of Physiotherapy.
The Chair creates the platform to consolidate her research work in the areas of indigenous food and nutrition security, especially because it focuses on capacity development, says Mbhenyane. “Working with postgraduate students is my forte and what I have done with a passion.”
Her research focus will be nutrition, health and food environments in the context of their influence and impact on the triple burden of malnutrition, namely undernutrition (stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies), over-nutrition and consequent non-communicable diseases (diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cancer). “Improving nutrition across the life course from conception to adulthood is essential for the long-term well-being of families and communities, and for successful economic and social advancement,” she says.
According to Mbhenyane, conclusive evidence is still lacking on how nutrition and health outcomes, such as the coexistence of the triple burden of diseases in the same household, manifest. “A thorough understanding of the drivers of food choices in the household will provide guidance for the development of more effective nutrition-sensitive programs. In this program, we will design and pilot impact evaluation tools that are culturally sensitive and applicable to local environments to assess nutrition and health outcomes.”
Mbhenyane, who was born and raised in Limpopo, holds a BSc from Medunsa (now Sefako Makgato Health Sciences University). She was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship and studied for a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Illinois in Chicago, USA. She then obtained a PhD in nutrition at Potchefstroom University (now North-West).
Mbhenyane previously worked as a dietitian in both the public and private sectors, and was also an academic at the Universities of the North (now Limpopo) and Venda.
For Louw, the SARChI chair in “Innovative Rehabilitation” is the realisation of a long-term goal and the pinnacle of her career path to date. “It is a wonderful acknowledgement of my research at institutional, national and government levels. This chair opens the door to many avenues and opportunities which could yield meaningful contributions to society.
“At an institutional level, it means that the value and need for research into rehabilitation is now firmly recognised and supported as a key health strategy for health.”
Her research focuses on the scientific and clinical evidence in rehabilitation to improve human functionality and healthcare within a trans-disciplinary context.
“There is an urgent need to rethink health and social strategies in South Africa to more efficiently address the rehabilitation needs of people living with chronic diseases and disability,” says Louw. “This Chair’s research plan will position SA as a world leader in delivering effective, cost-efficient rehabilitation services to address unmet needs of its people disadvantaged by chronic disease and disability. This places enormous long-term strain on individuals, families, communities and government resources. In lower-middle income countries, where health budgets are already inadequate, additional costs for chronic disease and disability management simply cannot be absorbed without innovations.”
Louw holds a BSc from the University of the Western Cape and a Masters and PhD from the University of South Australia. In 2008, she founded Stellenbosch University’s Neuromechanical Central Analytical facility and this provided much-needed infrastructure for research in her field.
Caption: Profs Xikombiso Mbhenyane and Quinette Louw.
Photos: Damien Schumann
Source Stellenbosch University