Director of Research Unit: Dr Deborah Constant BSc(Physio) BSc(Hons) MSc(Med) MPH PhD Cape Town
The Women's Health Research Unit (WHRU) was established in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT in 1996. The overall aim of the Unit is to improve the health of women through research that informs policy and practice. It acts as a multidisciplinary centre for women's health research in South Africa focusing on high priority women's health, and gender and health issues. The Unit's main activities include: Research; Health service support; Teaching; Social responsiveness and Advocacy.
The WHRU collaborates with departments and organisations within the University and with other Universities and national and international NGO's and research organisations. The Unit's research is structured according to high priority areas identified by the government and in keeping with international trends: HIV/AIDS; health systems research: reproductive health; abortion; female cancers and contraception. Its links with the National, Provincial and Local Departments of Health ensures that our research is relevant and contributes to health policy development and program implementation.
The WHRU produced a Booklet entitled "Body Mapping: to explore the embodied experiences of contraceptive methods and family planning with women in South Africa" from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Award. It showcases study participants ' body maps.
Please take some time to explore the information in our webpage. You can find information on our areas of research interest and recent publications.
Women's Health Research Unit
School Public Health and Family Medicine
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Cape Town
The Women's Health Research Unit has structured its research according to high priority areas identified by the government and in keeping with international trends. It subscribes to the Essential National Health Research philosophy. The current and past research activities can be categorized according to the main themes listed below.
The WHRU has established a model of work that is consultative and socially responsive and at the same time scientifically rigorous. It has strong links with government departments, including the City of Cape Town, Western Cape Provincial and National Departments of Health and communities and non-governmental and civil society organisations.
We collaborate with these various departments on reproductive health policy issues, health systems research, program monitoring, evaluation and implementation and training of health personnel.
Our links with the health services ensure that the work of the Unit is anchored in current health and health care realities, and facilitates the translation of research into policy and practice.
Policy documents we have contributed to:
National Cervical Cancer Control Policy (currently being finalized)
Social Responsiveness and Advocacy
A wide range of social responsiveness activities have been achieved by the Women's Health Research Unit. Members of the Unit have been active in researching and advocating for development and implementation of policies and programs that improve the health of women (e.g. cervical cancer screening, termination of pregnancy, contraceptive guidelines). Information on women's health has been provided through written and verbal communications, with a wide range of professionals, researchers and activists in women's health. Research reports and policy briefs on the Unit's research findings have been widely distributed.
Collaborative links exist within South Africa and internationally with other research and teaching departments as well as institutions and organisations working in the area of women's or reproductive health. The unit also has strong collaborative links with service providers in the different authorities in the Western Cape.
Research Institutions and Universities
Networks, Consortiums and Associations
Deborah Constant, Senior Research Officer and Director
Phone: 021 406 6722
Deborah Constant completed her PhD in Public Health at the University of Cape Town in 2016, and was awarded ad hominem promotion to Senior Researcher in 2017. She is currently Director of the Women’s Health Research Unit, School of Public Health at the University of Cape Town, where she has worked since 2002. Her main research interests are in the field of sexual and reproductive health and female cancers, and her research is aimed at influencing policy, improving service delivery, and strengthening women’s autonomy with respect to their reproductive health. She is predominantly a quantitative researcher with strong biostatistical skills, and has designed, raised funding for and led numbers of randomized controlled trials as well as observational studies. She has published 38 peer reviewed articles, mostly in international journals. She teaches at post graduate level in the MPH degree offered by the University of Cape Town School of Public Health and Family Medicine, and has supervised masters and co-supervised doctoral students.
Jennifer Moodley, Professor
Phone: 021 650 5489
Professor Jennifer Moodley is a is a Public Health Medicine physician with expertise in health systems research, epidemiology and public policy development. She is the current Director of the Faculty of Health Sciences Cancer Research Initiative, having been appointed in 2013 to lead the development of a comprehensive, integrated cancer research program, promote collaborative partnerships and support the translation of cancer research into a clinical and public health benefit. Jennifer has worked at the Women’s Health Research Unit for many years. Her main research interests are in the field of female cancers, understanding pathways to cancer care and improving the timely diagnosis of cancer.
Margit Endler, Senior Lecturer
Margit Endler M.D. PhD, is a Swedish obstetrician/gynecologist and researcher in the field of global maternal health. Her research focuses on postpartum hemorrhage as well as advancing safe abortion and contraceptive care. A main interest is researching and implementing abortion through telemedicine in Africa, the aim a large clinical trial that she is conducting. She is also a consultant at the department of Obstetrics at Söder Hospital in Stockholm, a postdoc researcher at the Department of Women and Children´s Health at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and an adjunct member of the FIGO Committee on human rights, refugees and violence against women. She has worked as a clinician or researcher in Sweden, Kenya, Haiti, Poland and South Africa.
Jane Harries is a past Director and Associate Professor in the Women’s Health Research Unit and currently an Honorary Research Associate in the Unit in the School of Public Health at the University of Cape Town. She has led a core team of researchers, research assistants, administrators and post graduate students. Her research expertise lies across the broad spectrum of sexual and reproductive health and rights and includes randomised controlled trials, clinical trials, cohort studies and qualitative research studies. Jane has been successful in collaborating both nationally, regionally and internationally. The research generated is often translational with direct advocacy to improving policy and practice in sexual and reproductive health and gender health issues. Jane continues to enjoy a high international standing in the field of sexual and reproductive health with a focus on abortion and unplanned pregnancies and was awarded an ad hominem promotion by the University of Cape Town based on the recognition of her contribution to women’s sexual and reproductive health both nationally and internationally. Jane was a recipient in 2017 of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges award for a study titled: A multidimensional approach to inform family planning needs, preferences and behaviours amongst women in South Africa.