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CHEPSAA is building a community of practice for health policy and systems in South Africa

CHEPSAA convened a pre-conference workshop at the Joint conference of the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) and the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa (RuDASA) conference in Bloemfontein, South Africa during September 2012.

The workshop aimed to begin building a community of practice for Health Policy and Systems Research & Analysis (HPSR+A) in South Africa.


South African members of CHEPSAA that attended the workshop include partners from the University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape and the University of the Witwatersrand. In addition, other participants included policy makers, practitioners, donors, researchers, analysts and academics with an interest in HPSR+A issues, including a ward councillor from the Cape Town City Council.

Summary of workshop discussions:

1. Priority activities identified include the need to develop a community of practice to strengthen the HPSR+A field; develop a shared understanding of HPSR+A; advocate for the relevance of the HPSR+A field in the South African public health community, policy and practice; make better links between research, teaching and practice.

2. Capacity needs identified include the need to develop health professions’ capacity in “systems thinking on the job”; develop the abilities of practioners and researchers to design research and translate knowledge for local contexts; capacity and posts in departments of health that focus on systems issues.

3. Research needs identified include the need for more action-oriented research that has a system focus; examining how South Africa’s proposed National Health Insurance plan will impact health systems’ functioning; understand the complexity of health system functioning, implementation challenges; more research at the meso- and micro- level; need to synthesise and share what we are learning across projects.

The organisational form of this community of practice has not been determined yet. However, during 2013, CHEPSAA will be taking forward these discussions, including the ideas summarised below:

1. The community of practice will bring key actors together, for examples, workshops like the one convened at PHASA; it will provide a platform for sharing ideas, creating shared understandings, advocacy and joint problem-solving.

2. People who could potentially be drawn into the community of practice include researchers, government research units, quality improvement groups, practioners, users and NGOs.

3. The CHEPSAA community of practice will be considering developing an online repository for existing and past research that is freely available and accessible to all and might explore the possibility of setting up a PHASA special interest group to pursue all these activities.

See also short workshop report.