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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

UNC: Redoubles Efforts on Implementation Science and HIV in South Africa

What connects South Africa, the global human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic, and public health teaching and research?

Two words: Implementation science.

It’s a hard term to pin down — ask five experts and you might get five different definitions — but implementation science is, at its core, the study of how to close the gap between knowing and doing, between when discoveries that would benefit people’s health are made and when they are put into wide practice.

At the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, more than 100 faculty and researchers work in implementation science. Since 2014, two researchers in particular have collaborated with faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand (known as Wits) to create the first implementation science degree program in South Africa.

The project, led by Dr. Audrey Pettifor, professor of epidemiology, and Dr. Rohit Ramaswamy, dual professor of maternal and child health and public health leadership, is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. To date, Drs. Pettifor and Ramaswamy, in collaboration with their co-primary investigator Dr. Tobias Chirwa, head of the School of Public Health at Wits, have successfully founded the degree program and guided three cohorts through to graduation.

This spring, Fogarty renewed their grant for five more years.

With support from the renewed grant, the researchers aim to establish the Wits School of Public Health as a sustained center of excellence in implementation science training and support. Wits faculty have taken full ownership of the degree program and are independently leading it into the future, extending the reach of the UNC/Wits collaboration across the African continent..

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