Head of Division: Associate Professor Lucia Knight BSc Cape Town MPS UKZN PhD LSHTM
The Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences (SBS) coordinates the School’s teaching and research activities in the social and behavioural sciences. Social and behavioural science research offers insight into the “how” and “why” questions in public health. Teaching and training in these disciplines offers students and professionals a diverse range of skills that can be applied in varied contexts.
The Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences was created in 2013. It coordinates the School’s teaching and research capacity in the social and behavioural sciences. This is a disciplinary area that is increasingly recognised as a critical element in fulfilling public health’s broader mission within the School, the Faculty, and by the public health community at large.
The social and behavioural sciences are critical components of any holistic approach to public health research, teaching and training, as well as community engagement and knowledge dissemination. For research, the social science perspective can offer insight into the “why” questions in public heath. Teaching and training in the social sciences offers students and professionals a diverse range of skills that can be applied in varied contexts. The social sciences also provide well-established methods for engaging with communities and disseminating research findings that help to communicate the meaning of public health issues and concepts for people within their contexts.
The primary goal of the Division is to strengthen and coordinate the social and behavioural science research and teaching in the School. The role of the social and behavioural sciences in the field of public health is increasingly valued as part of a complex, people-centered approach to tackling the multifaceted challenges in public health.
Please take some time to explore the information on our webpages. You can find information on the classes we teach, the post-graduate students in our Division, our areas of research interest and recent publications, upcoming DSBS events, and our engagement with communities, civil society and government organisations in South Africa and abroad.
Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences
School of Public Health and Family Medicine
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Cape Town
Associate Professor Lucia Knight
Email: Lucia Knight
The Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences does not do any ongoing teaching with undergraduates in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Some of our staff are involved in teaching on Special Study Modules (SSMs) for undergraduate medical students at UCT on an ad hoc basis. We have also been involved in designing and conducting field-based educational programmes in global public health, and gender and health, for undergraduate students from overseas. One of the longer-term goals in our Division is build from this experience and develop a platform for field-based, experiential learning in the health social sciences that would integrate undergraduate and graduate students from UCT and elsewhere. This kind of initiative would serve to address an important gap in existing health social science training in South Africa.
The SBS Track in the MPH Programme
The Master of Public Health Programme (MPH) at UCT has been growing steadily since its inception almost 15 years ago. As it has grown, specialist ‘tracks’ have been added in the areas of epidemiology, clinical research, health economics, and health systems.
The core SBS MPH courses are:
The other four elective courses can be taken from among the other MPH course offerings. In addition, up to two elective courses may be taken outside of the School.
Students in the SBS track will also be required to produce a mini-dissertation for their Master’s thesis that uses theory and method from the social and behavioural sciences.
To learn more about the SBS track, please look at our SBS Track Handbook.
The Division also offers PhD supervision and currently hosts a number of PhD students. The PhD in Public Health is by research only. Interested students should ensure that there are qualified supervisors available in the Division in their area of interest.
The ‘Building Research in Inter-Disciplinary Gender and HIV through the Social Sciences’ (BRIDGES) Program is a 5-year NIH funded (D43) program housed in the University of Cape Town’s Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences [DSBS], School of Public Health and Family Medicine.
The BRIDGES Program, led by Associate Professor Christopher Colvin, seeks to strengthen UCT’s capacity to serve as a global leader in gender and HIV social science research by:
The first Annual BRIDGES Symposium took place from 9th – 13th March 2020 at Goedgedacht Farm, Riebeeck Kasteel, Western Cape.During the Symposium, BRIDGES Fellows were officially introduced and interacted with some of the co-investigators (local and international), other BRIDGES affiliates and DSBS staff.The second Annual BRIDGES Symposium is scheduled to take place from 15th – 19th November 2021 at Goedgedacht Farm.
BRIDGES 1st Annual Symposium: 09 - 13 March 2020, Goedgedacht Farm
Public Health Advocacy
Staff in the Division have been involved in a range of public health advocacy efforts, including:
Technical Support to Community / Civil Society Partners
Division staff also have considerable experience providing technical support in social science research and training to a number of civil society organisations. These include:
Research in the Division has also led to numerous opportunities to make input into policy debates, both global and in South Africa. Policy stakeholders have included:
South African National AIDS Council (SANAC)
The Division is also engaged in efforts to develop and strengthen the place of evidence from social and behavioural science research in global health policymaking and practice. Most of this work is focused on developing methods for conducting systematic reviews of qualitative evidence and translating evidence syntheses into policy and practice recommendations. See “Qualitative Evidence Synthesis” under our “Research” page for more information.
The Division is involved in wide-ranging research that attempts to understand and analyse the complex relationships between the social and behavioural sciences and public health. There are five main research areas in the Division:
1. Men, Masculinities and Health
2. Health Governance and Activism
3. HIV and TB Treatment and Prevention Programmes
4. Qualitative Evidence Synthesis (QES) in Global Health Policy
5. New Pedagogies for Community Health Research
Men, Masculinities and Health
One of the Division’s key research areas involves work on men, masculinities and health, in particular with respect to HIV, gender-based violence and gender transformation initiatives. Previous and ongoing research projects have focused on men’s experiences in HIV support groups, issues of men’s use of and access to health services, gender and the community organisation of care, and the role of human rights discourses in HIV/AIDS treatment choices.
Health Governance and Activism
Research in the Division also explores health governance, health activism and human rights. Previous and ongoing projects have examined the People’s Health Movement’s ‘Right to Health’ campaign, sanitation and health activism in Khayelitsha with the Social Justice Coalition, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and health pluralism in the context of local politics, and the Learning Network for Health and Human Rights Project (part of the Health and Human Rights Programme in UCT’s School of Public Health and Family Medicine).
HIV and TB Prevention and Treatment Programmes
Much of the research work in the Division has been focused on understanding and supporting the development of longer-term HIV and TB prevention and treatment programmes in South Africa. Previous and ongoing projects in this area include research with community health workers (CHWs) on CHW policy development, training and expectations, the use of CHWs in PMTCT interventions, patient experiences of lay health work, and the impact of CHWs on health citizenship, nurse-initiated ART, second-line treatment failure in ART patients, and policy transfer of molecular TB diagnostics in South Africa.
Qualitative Evidence Synthesis (QES) in Global Health Policy
Qualitative evidence synthesis is a growing strength in the Division. There are two streams of this work. The first involves developing new methods for conducting these kinds of reviews and translating their findings, as well as carrying out QES on specific topics such as CHW motivation, health systems barriers and enablers to maternal ART, and task shifting in midwifery programmes. The second stream involves ethnographic work to document and better understand the growing recognition of QES in global health policymaking as a new form of global knowledge production and knowledge politics.
New Pedagogies for Community Health Research
Finally, the Division has an emerging research interest in developing and evaluating new pedagogies for community health research. In particular, we are interested in pedagogical research that assesses field-based approaches to experiential learning for community health research methods.
Lucia Knight, Associate Professor and Head of Division
Lucia Knight is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has training in social anthropology, family demography and population studies with a PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her current research focuses on the development of social and behavioural interventions to improve access to HIV treatment and care and ART adherence. She is also conducting research on the quality of maternal health care and is exploring new areas of research in sexual and reproductive health. She has extensive teaching and supervision experience and convenes the Social and Behavioural Sciences track of the Masters in Public Health, including the teaching of qualitative research methods.
Jennifer Githaiga, Lecturer
Phone: 021 406 6819
Jennifer Githaiga is a lecturer in DSBS and manages the ‘Building Research in Inter-Disciplinary Gender and HIV through the Social Sciences’ [BRIDGES] Program housed in the Division. She holds a PhD in Research Psychology from UCT, an MA in Counselling Psychology from the United States International University – Africa, and an MA in Communication from Daystar University, Nairobi, Kenya. Her research interests include women’s health research with a focus on psychosocial dynamics and constructions of chronic illness experiences in resource-limited contexts, and the impact on women’s wellbeing; cancer and the ethics of care, with a special interest in cervical cancer prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa; critical qualitative research approaches and adapting qualitative methods for contextual relevance.
Carmen Spath, Research Fellow
Laing de Villiers, Research Assistant
Natasha Kannemeyer, Research Co-ordinator
Mandla Majola, Research Co-ordinator
|Marion Bloch||Research Administrator||021 650 1487|
Christopher J Colvin. Traumatic Storytelling and Memory. In: Post-Apartheid South Africa: Performing Signs of Injury. 1st Edition. Routledge.
Journal articles - WHRU
Booklet - WHRU
Reports - WHRU
Lince-Deroche, N., Harries, J., Morroni, C. & Sinanovic, E. (2018). Women’s Health. Abortion. In Maternal, Child and Women’s Health Barometer 2016. Durban: Health Systems Trust; March. ISBN Number: 978-1-919839-91-2. In Maternal, Child and Women’s Health Barometer 2016. Durban: Health Systems Trust.