The University of Stellenbosch

Health Systems and Operational Research

The Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) aims to improve tuberculosis (TB) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) care by building an evidence base for effective programme implementation. Health systems and operational research focuses on identifying gaps in health programme quality, efficiency and effectiveness, evaluating factors that contribute to these, and testing interventions to improve outputs and outcomes.

We aim to answer high priority, programmatically relevant questions through rigorous research.  The team is experienced in epidemiological analyses, managing large, routine datasets, conducting health system strengthening and socio-behavioural science research and mathematical modelling, all contributing to the overall aim of generating evidence to inform and strengthen health programme implementation.

The DTTC has successfully implemented numerous health system strengthening and operational research projects and is leading multiple ongoing research studies on TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.  Specific research within this focus area includes working with special sub-populations (children and adolescents, pregnant women and those  previously treated for TB), to improve case finding,  linkage to care and TB outcomes.

Operational research at the DTTC is built on an established platform of close collaboration with multiple stakeholders, including routine services, and Departments of Health.  Other collaborations include The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA), The South African TB Think Tank, The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the Spotlight:

  • In response to WHO’s request to strengthen surveillance data for childhood TB, the DTTC is working on optimizing surveillance strategies and strengthening prevention and routine data for children with TB, including children and adolescents living with HIV.
  • DTTC is actively involved at a national level through the South African National TB Think Tank and has played an active role in establishing a national Child, Adolescent and Maternal TB working group within the TB Think Tank, specifically to strengthen TB care to children, adolescents, and pregnant women in South Africa.
  • The DTTC, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders is assessing the epidemiological impact of COVID-19 on the TB program in South Africa, at a national and local level.
  • The DTTC, in collaboration with SACEMA, has produced a transmission dynamic model for TB in South Africa and is currently using it to estimate the impact of COVID-19 and COVID-19 response measures on TB incidence and TB-associated mortality in South Africa.

Photo Credit: Kim Cloete