Mzantsi Wakho has a strong developmental agenda, investigating and documenting the factors that promote and obstruct good health outcomesfor young people. The project’s principal aim thus far has been to gather, publish and disseminate high-quality data according to the highest standards of ethical rigour.
Mzantsi Wakho has a strong developmental agenda, investigating and documenting the factors that promote and obstruct good health outcomes for young people. The project’s principal aim thus far has been to gather, publish and disseminate high-quality data according to the highest standards of ethical rigour. The project has aimed to inform policy and programming through collaborating with policy makers during the design, data collection, and analyses. Researchers serve on advisory committees for numerous local organisations (such as Paediatric AIDS Treatment for Africa), South African government departments (including Health, Social Development and Basic Education, SANAC) and bilateral agencies including UNICEF, UNAIDS, USAID/ PEPFAR.
Policy and programming influence from the Mzantsi Wakho/Young Carers studies. In the past 5 years, research from this team has been used to:
- design national policies on vulnerable children and appropriate psychosocial support services in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Tanzania;
- train more than 10,000 community workers and 4,000 Peace Corps volunteers in Southern Africa on providing better care to AIDS-affected adolescents;
- draft policy documents and guidance notes, such as PEPFAR-USAID’s ‘Core Package of Interventions’ for ten African countries, the UNAIDS Guidance on Social Protection, UNICEF’s ‘Call to Action’ policy document and UNDP’s guidance on cash transfers and HIV; the PEPFAR ‘DREAMS’ initiative for prevention for adolescent girls;
- support policy decisions by ministers and high-level decision-makers in Southern and Eastern Africa who have cited them in keynote speeches at conferences, high-level meetings and in budget speeches;
- shape policy decisions for international donor organisations, including: UNICEF’s Social Protection and HIV team in the New York, Regional ESARO office and South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya offices, the UNAIDS HIV-prevention team and PEPFAR-USAID; and
- In 2015, our investigators were the principal co-authors, together with staff of the Department of Health and UNPFA, of a new national policy on adolescent health.
South African Adolescent Health Policy: In 2015, our research team collaborated with UNFPA and the National Department of Health provide technical support to review and rewrite South Africa’s National Adolescent and Youth Health Policy. The policy was developed by combining the latest high-quality evidence on effective health promotion among adolescents, with the health priorities of young people who are patients and public users of the health services. We advocated three strategies: 1) evidence-based review on the 10 priority areas for youth health; 2) high-level expert consultation; and 3) input from young people, caregivers, healthcare and social service providers.
A series of rapid evidence reviews on topics identified by adolescents and other experts as the most crucial in health promotion were conducted by leading researchers in each topic. We convened a series of consultations and workshops with adolescents, caregivers, policy makers and health authorities, to seek their input on drafts of the Adolescent and Youth Health Policy. Mzantsi Wakho research provided key information through cautious engagement and participatory research with adolescents and youth. Research exercises, including the convening of a Youth Health Parliament, envisioning a Dream Clinic and acting out Dream Consultations, were combined with the emerging findings from our quantitative survey to inform the objectives and action points of the policy. Subsequent to extensive redrafting and review, the final version of the Adolescent and Youth Health Policy was submitted to our partners at the National Department of Health in December 2015.