Institute for Life CourseHealth Research

Activity Report (2019-2020)


Message from the Directors


One of the stickiest problems in global health research is the vast discrepancy in research evidence

emanating from low- and middle-income countries compared to evidence from rich countries. Over

90% of published research is published by and focuses on only 10% of the world’s population – known

as the 90/10 gap. Addressing this imbalance is a key imperative for global health in general, and for the

Institute for Life Course Health Research in particular. It is more important than ever to generate evidence and contribute to knowledge about child and adolescent development across the life course in diverse contexts, and to understand the role that enabling environments (families, communities, policies) play in promoting optimal development. At the Institute we are excited to contribute to ensuring that low and middle-income countries (LMICs) contribute more substantially to producing this crucial evidence.


The Institute moved to our permanent home in the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch

University at the beginning of 2019. Embedded within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

(FMHS) we strive to align with the faculty’s commitment to “enhance health and health equity with and

for the communities [we] serve”. As a collective, the Institute is committed to being part of global efforts

to eradicate poverty, reduce massive inequality and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. A

central pillar of our work is developing and testing interventions about what works in LMIC settings.

In doing this, we are collaborative, work alongside communities and strive to ensure that we listen to

the voices of children and adolescents. Our projects focus not only on generating knowledge, but on

making sure that we take what we have learned back to communities to engage individuals, families,

and leaders in conversations about how to use the evidence we generate to promote behaviour change

and family and community resilience.


Our new position within the Faculty has given us the opportunity to collaborate with a number of

other research units and groups, partnerships we look forward to continuing. We are also fortunate

to collaborate with diverse local and international organisations and researchers, finding new ways to

understand health and wellbeing along the life course, and sharing our work with a broader global

audience. In the years to come, we hope to build on this momentum and identify opportunities to foster

new collaborations. Since our move to FMHS we have been awarded R49 813 150 in research funding,

published 72 peer-reviewed papers and have given over 40 presentations in a range of settings - all

testament to a highly dedicated and productive team.


Like many others across the world, we experienced a challenging set of losses and changes within

our ILCHR team in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic. We were devastated to lose Nomawethu

Simangala in January 2021 to COIVD-19. ‘Noma’ as she was affectionately known, had been working in

our team for over 10 years and approached her work with deep care and empathy for the parents and

children participating in our projects. Early in the pandemic, a former staff member, Tembi Qondela,

also died as a result of COIVD-19. Both are greatly missed and we hope to pay tribute to them by

continuing to work to serve the communities they loved. Despite facing a number of personal and

professional obstacles set by the pandemic and various stages of lockdown, the ILCHR team rose to the

challenge and continued to deliver excellent work. We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to

every member of the ILCHR team for their continued dedication, and we are excited to share a set of

meaningful contributions in the report that follows.


Professor Mark Tomlinson and Associate Professor Sarah Skeen

Co-Directors: Institute for Life Course Health Research


Download/ read the full report here.