About Us

The Health Economics Unit (HEU) was established in early 1990 in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The HEU works to improve the performance of health systems through informing health policy and enhancing technical and managerial capacity in sub-Saharan Africa. Its foundation is academic excellence in health economics and related health system issues.


The development of the Health Economics Unit (HEU) was made possible by the recruitment of a Health Economist (Emeritus Professor Di McIntyre) to work in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at UCT in the late 1980s. A number of public health specialists (Drs Steve Taylor, William Pick and Max Bachmann) collaborated with Emeritus Prof McIntyre to establish the HEU at the beginning of 1990.

The unit was initially envisioned as primarily a research organisation, but the urgent need for developing health economics capacity both within South Africa and the African region more generally was soon recognised and training activities were initiated. From modest beginnings of a single full-time health economist and part-time inputs from supportive public health colleagues, the HEU has developed a thriving and diverse research portfolio, substantive postgraduate programmes at the masters and doctoral level and extensive technical support activities.


Our work at the HEU is guided by the following vision:

The HEU will be a world-class independent authority in health economics, health policy and systems. It will lead in publishing innovative research which addresses priority conceptual and methodological issues in low- and middle- income countries. It will play a key role in global post-graduate training in health economics and offer expert policy advice on relevant issues in sub-Saharan Africa. To achieve this, the HEU will pursue a balance of mainstream and developmental health economics drawing on a strong human resource base with a full range of relevant skills and a diversity of nationalities and backgrounds.


The four core objectives of the HEU are:

  • To conduct high quality research in health economics, health policy and systems.
  • To train at the post-graduate level to improve technical research and health systems capacity.
  • To develop capacity in health economics and related health systems research in South Africa and in the African region.
  • To provide technical support to facilitate the translation of health policies into practical programmes.


HEU is committed to the following guiding principles:

  • Excellence and independence;
  • Fairness, social responsiveness and accountability in health systems;
  • Respect for its collaborators and stakeholders;
  • Innovative thinking, to ensure its work remains ground-breaking;
  • Transformation in research and learning.