A R2.2 million research grant from the British National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will bring Professor Quinette Louw one step closer to achieving universal health coverage for people with strokes.
The grant, which will run over ten months, is aimed at strengthening health systems in South Africa to achieve universal health coverage for people with strokes through research, partnership, capability building and stakeholder engagement.
“We will explore the opportunities and challenges within public health to offer appropriate stroke care to all who need it," said Louw, who heads the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Stellenbosch University.
Louw said the work they will focus on is closely linked to the National Health Insurance (NHI). "It is aimed at helping us to identify the elements necessary to be included in those essential healthcare packages for people with strokes."
Louw said the grant would form part of a partnership between South Africa and the United Kingdom represented, respectively, by Stellenbosch University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Louw will be the Principal Investigator (PI) – along with co-PI Professor Tracey Smythe from the LSHTM.
Included in this grant are also Professor René English from the FMHS' Department of Global Health and Professor Portia Jordon, head of the Department of Nursing and Midwifery.
"We also have other collaborators, including a health economist and a health systems experts at the LSHTM," said Louw.
She said the funding mechanism is structured so that the first part of it is aimed at establishing partnerships that will work together to pursue a larger grant with the NIHR. However, there is some research linked to the first part of the funding mechanism.
Louw said the work with the LSHTM was a "brand new collaboration" for rehabilitation for her department.
"It has been a very positive experience for us, as the LSHTM is one of the biggest schools doing work in lower-middle-income countries.
"It has been a pleasure working with the team at LSHTM. They have good practices in place for working with institutions in lower-middle-income settings."
Louw said the plans for their work have been hampered by the COVID-19 restrictions. “We had planned to bring the two teams together for five days but it has not been possible. We have however had some online seminars with colleagues from the LSHTM aimed at capacity building from both sides and our entire research team has benefited from these.
"In June we will present our work, which is aimed at helping the LSHTM team to better understand the South African context."
Challenges aside, Louw said she and her team are very excited about the outcomes linked to the grant. “The grant offers capacity development opportunities. We also hope to make a meaningful contribution to the care of people with strokes in South Africa."
Photo credit: Stefan Els