Established in 2001, the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) was presented with the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) 2018 Social Responsiveness Award at the Faculty of Health Sciences graduation ceremony on Saturday, 13 April.
Social responsiveness is UCT’s third pillar of academic performance criteria, alongside teaching and learning, and research. Accordingly, the annual award recognises individuals and groups employed by the university whose scholarly initiatives and undertakings play an effective developmental role in a cultural, economic, political, scientific and/or social environment.
“(The award) provides a clear signal to members of the university that social responsiveness is an important institutional activity,” former acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation, Professor Michael Kyobe, said at the call for nominations last year.
Located within the Department of Pathology’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine in UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and with a field office in Worcester, SATVI is a tuberculosis (TB) research group set up with the objective of developing better prevention strategies to curb the disease. The SATVI describes its mission as “conducting innovative and high-quality TB vaccine research in Africa to impact the global epidemic”. The group focuses on several different disciplines, including clinical sciences, epidemiology, immunology, infectious diseases, paediatrics, public health and systems biology.
Alongside its clinical research agenda, SATVI has engaged communities of the Cape Winelands in a portfolio of social responsiveness programmes. The objective, said SATVI director Professor Mark Hatherill, is to develop and advance TB prevention strategies by, among other interventions, ensuring that communities are aware of TB and related health issues, and that they are empowered to take ownership of the problems and the solutions.
“We view social responsiveness as a core principle and have been able to work with TB research stakeholders and agencies at local, provincial and international level to fulfil our social responsiveness goals.”
As such, he said, social responsiveness is integral to the purpose of the SATVI. This role is managed by an active community engagement team under the leadership of senior research officer Dr Michèle Tameris, communications manager Kelvin Vollenhoven and field site manager Marwou de Kock, and draws on the expertise of SATVI’s diverse staff complement of academics and PASS staff at the Worcester field site.
“We view social responsiveness as a core principle and have been able to work with TB research stakeholders and agencies at local, provincial and international level to fulfil our social responsiveness goals,” said Hatherill.
“The intention to work closely with communities in the Cape Winelands area as critical role players in the fight to end the TB epidemic is central to SATVI’s research agenda.”
Highlights of SATVI’s social responsiveness initiatives include two Wellcome Trust-funded drama productions, Carina’s Choice (Karina se Keuse) and Lienkie’s Lungs (Lienkie se Longe); the Kick TB Schools Programme; and the TB Under the Spotlight Science Engagement initiative.
Initiated by Tameris, in collaboration with the UCT Drama department and Worcester Senior Secondary School, Carina’s Choice has helped raise awareness about TB and clinical research among 8 000 learners at high schools in and around Worcester. The production is available online with English and isiXhosa subtitles.
In addition, the Stop TB Partnership funded a Carina’s Choice comic book, which was developed by Linda Rhoda and the Community Advisory Board.
A second drama production, Lienkie’s Lungs, was produced in collaboration with UCT’s Drama and Anthropology departments, the community theatre MotherTongue Project and actors from the community, and funded by a Wellcome Trust International Engagement Award.
The live production of Lienkie’s Lungs was played to 1 275 people at clinics and other events in the Cape Winelands, and to a televised audience of 2.5 million when it was broadcast on an SABC TV youth programme. It was also adapted into a digital novella entitled Beat TB: Stories of Engagement.
Targeting primary schools
Younger audiences have also been a primary focus of this programme. A pilot project funded by TB vaccine development organisation Aeras in 2015, SATVI’s Kick TB Schools Programme engaged and has informed almost 20 000 primary school learners in the Boland about the signs, symptoms and impact of TB since its inception.
“SATVI’s Kick TB Schools Programme engaged and has informed almost 20 000 primary school learners in the Boland about the signs, symptoms and impact of TB since its inception.”
Using the mediums of dancing and singing, and educational videos, booklets and toolkits, the programme was expanded in 2016 when the Department of Education joined SATVI, Aeras and the TB Alliance as an organiser and funder.
UCT’s Michaelis Art School, Bidvest, Waltons and the Cape Winelands District Municipality joined as collaborators and sponsors of an associated Kick TB Poster Competition.
Among the attributes sought by the Social Responsiveness Award committee is “evidence of shared planning and decision-making practices”.
As is demonstrated by the numerous partnerships behind its social responsiveness programmes, SATVI has developed an effective engagement strategy, which not only leverages UCT resources and expertise, but also external resources and stakeholders, local and international.
This is evidenced too through SATVI’s World TB Day activities, which were supported by the Department of Health, Department of Culture and Sports, SA Football Association, Kick TB & HIV, Government Communication and Information Systems, Breede Valley Municipality and Cape Winelands District Municipality.
Designed to raise awareness about TB in the Boland district, World TB Day activities included a Wellness Day featuring fun races, soccer, traditional games and TB screening, and a Public Library TB Awareness Programme.
Also among the measures of the award is the requirement that social responsiveness activities should result “in demonstrable mutual benefit to the academic enterprise and an external non-academic constituency”.
“SATVI’s portfolio of community engagement activities has made a substantial contribution to knowledge production about community engagement within TB research,” said Hatherill.
“It has resulted in a number of academic outputs, including postgraduate dissertations, peer-reviewed journal articles, a book chapter, and poster and oral presentations at local and international conferences.”
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