Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 32, Supplement 1, pp S10–S29 | Cite as

Research in support of health systems transformation in South Africa: The experience of the Centre for Health Policy

  • Laetitia C RispelEmail author
  • Jane Doherty
Original Article


We describe the role and experience of the Centre for Health Policy (CHP), a university-based research unit established in 1987, in influencing and supporting health systems transformation in South Africa over two decades. During 2010, we analyzed relevant documents and conducted interviews with 25 key informants. CHP's research has contributed directly to health policy development and implementation while also changing the way government understood or approached policy issues. Key success factors for policy influence are: research quality and trustworthiness, strategic alliances and networking, and capacity building. CHP's challenges include identifying new funding sources and sustaining a high public profile. The lessons for other countries are to: conduct good quality, relevant research based on strong ethical values; build and maintain open and honest relationships with government; recognize and adapt to changes in the policy environment; develop capacity as part of a continuous programme; and seek core funding that ensures research independence and public accountability.


policy research health systems transformation South Africa 



We thank Sue Armstrong for conducting the majority of the key informant interviews. Duane Blaauw, Phyllis Freeman, Lucy Gilson, Ashnie Padarath, Helen Schneider, Dingie van Rensburg, and Gill Walt made useful comments on earlier drafts of the article.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Health Policy & Medical Research Council Health Policy Research Group, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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