The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town is one of several health science institutions in Africa. Across the continent, faculties of medicine and health sciences are charged with the responsibilit y of training health professionals and health scientists.
This is an important cog in the system of human resources for health. Yet, most of these institutions are facing the challenges of an uncertain future for academic medicine, scarce resources, and a haemorrhaging of staff into the private sector. Our Faculty wishes to join other health science faculties in Africa by applying our collective capacities to health systems strengthening in Africa, through strong collaborations based on substantive activities in the fields of research, service and education.
In fulfillment of that vision, our mission is to be "an outstanding teaching and research Faculty, educating for life and addressing the challenges facing our society. Within this, we recognize our historical context and our location in Africa, and strive to play an active developmental role in the cultural, economic, political, scientific and social environment of South Africa and the African continent".
The Faculty consists of 14 departments, with four Schools falling within its ambit. The departments range from Medicine, to Surgery, to Psychiatry. In addition, there are large research institutes, units and groups in areas such as infectious disease and molecular medicine; liver disease; sports science; cardiology; child health; women's health; occupational and environmental health; brain and behaviour; cancer; genetics; health economics, among others.
Each of the departments and research groups has contacts within other institutions in Africa - through collaborative research, teaching and training programmes or support for clinical practice in specific fields. The last takes the form of direct provision of clinical service on referral, provision of training in specialist and sub-specialist areas, and subsequent follow-up and onsite support for "alumni" of these programmes.
Through individuals, institutions, and universities some of the countries with which we have links are: Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cameroon, Sudan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt and Gambia. In addition, several staff members of the Faculty serve on the many African committees and networks arranged around specific disciplines.
In 2006, a study was undertaken with IAPO, which revealed that there were 127 linkages between the Faculty of Health Sciences and institutions and individuals across Africa. In the two years since the study, this figure has been increased as the reputation of UCT's African footprint has extended.
Some examples of these partnerships include:
The provision of clinical training for the following: medical specialists and sub-specialists and health professionals in general:
The African Paediatric Fellowship Programme was initiated in 2008 as a development programme for clinical specialists and participants have been taken from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and we are developing links with Zambia and Zimbabwe;
There is a similar project proposed for post-graduate paediatric ICU nursing;
Paediatric AIDS Treatment for Africa is a capacity development collaboration, a participatory training programme for healthworkers working with children. It was initiated by Groote Schuur Hospital and UCT more than four years ago, and now consists of approximately 42 teams of healthcare workers from 19 African countries.
Contributing to institutional capacity strengthening:
The Faculty of Health Sciences is working with the University of Namibia to establish a Faculty of Health Sciences in that institution;
In partnership with the government of Namibia, the Faculty is also assisting with the establishment of the Namibian Cardiac Unit.
On the research front, academic staff continue to enjoy strong collaborations with individuals, departments and faculties across the Sub-continent:
One example is the pivotal role which academic staff are playing in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Policy initiative, which involves five Sub-Saharan African countries.
Most recently, the Faculty has joined the leadership of the Sub-Saharan African Medical School Study, which incorporates all of the medical schools in Africa. This network holds promise for development of a more systematic approach to inform the Faculty's role in Africa.