All the best health stories from
the Bhekisisa team this week
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Who pays for what is often at the centre of reporting on the tobacco industry. 

For good reason. In the last year, Big Tobacco paid social media celebrities to tweet in support of its views and bankrolled barely legal lavish overseas trips for influencers to punt their new products.  

It’s an industry that kills every second customer it has, so it’s important to keep track of what it does with the cash.

This week, Bhekisisa peers into the world of academia, where University of Cape Town researchers are outraged that their colleagues made a deal with the Philip Morris International-funded nonprofit the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which claims it wants to end smoking. 

The money has revealed a rift in researchers' opinions on taking industry funds. Some say Big Tobacco has a responsibility to reduce the ill health it causes, while others won’t go near what they call “dirty money”. 

But here’s the twist: the mere suggestion of tobacco money at UCT has already scared away international donors for public health researchers there. And it could change the course of tobacco control policy in South Africa. 

So is this a classic case of good vs evil? Read the story here and decide for yourself. 

Do you think academics should accept research money from industry? Let me know via or on Twitter at @vandykjoan.

Happy reading, 
Joan van Dyk, senior health reporter

Help us keep quality health journalism and social justice reporting free. Click here.

The Lean Healthcare Summit will inspire the healthcare community to advance lean thinking and practice in their facilities to improve efficacy, free resources, reduce waiting times, impact staff morale, delight patients and save lives. During the Summit you will hear case studies and talks from Lean CEOs and leading international Lean practitioners on meeting the challenges in raising performance in healthcare and related organisations. There will be a particular focus on the African context.

We are proud to host three public sector hospital CEOs as speakers, including Grey Dube of Leratong Hospital, Gladys Bogoshi representing Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital CEO Bhavna Patel. Sharon Vasuthevan, Executive at Life Healthcare, one of South Africa’s top private hospital groups, will also be speaking.

All these leaders have embraced Lean and enjoy the benefit that it has brought to their healthcare facilities. John Toussaint, the keynote speaker, is the founder and Chairman of Catalysis, USA. He is a world-renowned healthcare improvement leader working across the globe, including South Africa. Don’t miss out on hearing more from these local and international healthcare Lean leaders. Contact Mia Faull for more information.
Puff and pass: Go inside the debate dividing universities and the tax returns that broke the story wide open. (Burst)
In 2001, a team of researchers got their hands on the motherload of insider Big Tobacco industry documents. And what they found was - as many things are with that sector - like something out of a spy novel. 

They found that tobacco companies had set up a non-profit organisation to deliberately produce research that would run counter to the science that says smoking kills. Then, with their plan in motion, they took their dodgy science and infiltrated academic conferences, flooding them with papers, the team describes in an American Journal of Public Health study.

And it's been a page out of their playbook ever since, but has it hit home in South Africa? Our Joan van Dyk takes you inside the hallowed halls of academia where some major drama is playing out, and the stakes have never been higher. 

Get the full story
This tobacco-funded foundation’s 2018 tax returns were just revealed — and you won’t believe what’s in them. @Bhekisisa_MG reports: This tobacco-funded foundation’s 2018 tax returns were just revealed — and you won’t believe what’s in them. @Bhekisisa_MG reports:
© Camilla Perkins for Mosaic
The Eastern Cape is experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history. As a result, boreholes and dams have run dry.

But, an increasingly hotter Earth affects more than the environment — it's bad for your mental health.

Farmers in Australia are experiencing anxiety, extreme stress and even depression as a result of the country's worst dry spell in a century.

"I was sleeping for 15 hours a day, I felt so sick and tired I thought I had cancer. But it was depression," an Australian farmer says.

Mosaic Science's Georgina Kenyon looks at how Australia's drought is affecting farmers' mental health and how indigenous knowledge is coming to the rescue.

Read the full story here

Mosaic goes the distance to find and report the science and health stories that matter.
Most recently, they’ve published on the role of vaping and e-cigarettes in quitting smoking, the damage caused by weakly regulated painkillers in West Africa, and why it’s so hard to stop people dying from snakebite.
To be the first to hear about their new long reads and podcasts, sign up to Mosaic’s newsletter.
Life on a hotter earth: Depression, drought and decolonising #mentalhealth, via @mosaicscience & @Bhekisisa_MG: Life on a hotter earth: Depression, drought and decolonising #mentalhealth, via @mosaicscience & @Bhekisisa_MG:
Have 5 minutes? Take our short NHI survey.

Help us gauge public participation around the National Health Insurance, freely and anonymously.

If you’d like to add your voice, take five minutes to complete our 12-question survey. The survey also allows civil society members to upload their submissions to the NHI and whether or not they would like these to be made public.

While the survey is anonymous, we plan to analyse and publish the overall results on our website, and make the anonymous dataset available publically. Submissions marked for public consumption will be made available on our website as well as via The centre would like to thank our civil society reviewers who helped us draft and refine the survey questions

The deadline for input is 5 December
Click here to complete the survey
Help @Bhekisisa_MG gauge the quality of public participation around the National Health Insurance #NHI. Complete the five-minute survey here: Help @Bhekisisa_MG gauge the quality of public participation around the National Health Insurance #NHI. Complete the five-minute survey here:
Since our last newsletter, we've had some new subscribers. We'd like to give a warm Bhekisisa welcome to all our new readers:

Thomas Dire of the Department of Labour
Nomtha Nkosi from Gauteng
Naasif Higgins from Western Cape
Adri Kotze from the United Kingdom
Joan Muller from Gauteng
Lynn Lewis from Western Cape
Sally Cruickshanks of Africa Health Placements
Fidelis Zvomuya from Gauteng

Like our newsletter? Forward it to your family, friends or colleagues so they can sign up themselves.

Did our last newsletter get lost in your inbox? We've got you. Click here to see our past editions.

Opportunities from around the web:

Trainer/ consultant, Rise Up: Gender Equity Initiative (GEI) — South Africa

As part of the GEI, Rise Up seeks to recruit a consultant or trainer who will work in between Gauteng and Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

The consultant will have expertise in policy issues affecting girls in South Africa, particularly in the two areas in which they will work.

This project-based consultancy will require travel up to four times between November 2019 to June 2020 throughout Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The trainer will be tasked with adapting the project's training curriculum implementation with different populations in South Africa and provide in-person and virtual trainings.

The successful candidate will have five to seven years' experience.

Deadline: 31 October
Find out more

Advocacy officer, Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force (Sweat) — Eastern Cape

The non-governmental organisation, Sweat, seeks to appoint an advocacy officer to be based in East London, Eastern Cape.

The officer will be responsible for advocacy and engagement with stakeholders and players in the district around the needs of sex workers and the programme's implementation. 

The successful candidate will have a social science degree with a minimum of two years' experience in lobbying, advocacy, human rights or HIV.

All candidates must have experience in sex work programming and conducting trainings. 

Deadline: 25 October
Find out more

Call for applications, Rise Up: Gender Equity Initiative (GEI)

Rise Up, a leader in the global movement for gender equity launched the GEI in partnership with Cummins Inc. in order to advance education, opportunity, social justice and gender equity in South Africa.

The organisation will select 20 civil society and non-profit leaders from Gauteng and Durban to participate in a week-long advocacy and leadership accelerator workshop in February 2020. The purpose of the workshop is to build their advocacy capacity, strengthen leadership skills and develop a holistic understanding of the issues affecting women and girls in their communities.

Leaders will then have the opportunity to apply for competitive seed funding to launch their strategies to advance gender equity and justice across the country.

Deadline: 28 October
Find out more

Call for registration, International AIDS Conference — San Francisco and Oakland

Registration has been opened for the 23rd International AIDS Conference which will take place from 6 to 10 July 2020.

Next year's AIDS Conference will mark the first time the world's largest conference on HIV and AIDS will be hosted in two neighbouring cities.

Conference registration has opened two months early to allow delegates more time to apply for visas.

Early registration ends on 15 January, 2020. Group registration only applies to five or more people and the organisation requesting a group registration must nominate one group representative who will administer the group booking.

Media registration is free for eligible members of the media who will be attending in their capacity as journalists, photographers, videographers and community educators.

For more information about visa applications, click here.
To register, click here.

Meta-Research for Transforming Clinical Research, What should we change in the way we are doing research, 25 November 2019 — Paris

Organised by the Methods in Research on Research (MiRoR) consortium, this meeting will look at meta-research, for instance, within preclinical studies as well as opportunities for data sharing, including within the pharmaceutical industry.

Other subjects to be discussed include tools and strategies to increase the replicability of studies and new approaches to evaluate researchers. Registration is free, but seats are limited.

Click here to find out more

Public lecture: Harnessing the Immune Response — To measles elimination and beyond, National Institute for Communicable Diseases — Johannesburg

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases will be hosting Melinda Suchard on 4 November at 5.30 pm as part of the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation's 14th James HS Gear Memorial Lecture. 

The talk will take place in the James Gear Auditorium.

RSVP by emailing Irma Latsky or contact them on 011 555 0395

Call for public comment, National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill — deadline extended

The Portfolio Committee on Health invites stakeholders and interested parties to submit written submissions on the NHI Bill now before 29 November.

The objective of the Bill is to achieve universal access to quality healthcare services in South Africa as per Section 27 of the Constitution. 

As part of this, the Bill sets up the creation of an NHI Fund and outlines its powers, functions and governance structures. The Fund will be used to strategically purchase healthcare services on behalf of citizens and certain categories of foreign nationals to ensure the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of its resources.

Deadline: 29 November
Click here to submit your comment
For any inquiries email Vuyokazi Majalamba or call her on 021 403 3770 or 083 709 8522

PS ICYMI: Our recent story about the quality of public participation made some major waves. Now, we've created a survey to help put some numbers behind the narratives.

Take a couple of minutes to take our 12-question survey and help us gauge the level of public participation around the process and possible ways to improve it.

While the survey is anonymous, we'll publish the results on our website, at the end of the submission period. They will also be made available on We will not include submissions marked as private in the results.

A special thank you to our civil society reviewers who helped us draft the questions!

Call for Applications, Emerging Voices for Global Health (EV4GH)

Young health systems researchers are encouraged to apply for this mentorship programme. During the course of the programme, successful candidates will receive e-coaching as well as in-person training on topics such as scientific presentation, networking and communication. Fellows will then participate in the Sixth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Dubai in November 2020.

Deadline: 6 February 2020
Find out more 

Call for papers, BioMed Central (BMC)

Submissions are now open to contribute manuscripts to the following journals: BMC Public Health; Environmental Health; Environmental Sciences Europe; Globalization and HealthMicrobiome and One Health Outlook.

The theme across all journals is environmental justice. Papers should shed light on the contribution evidence-based research can give to develop better practices and policies towards stronger environmental justice.

Submissions can include but are not limited to research on air pollution, sewage management, water systems management, drinking water quality and pesticides.

Deadline: 1 November
Find out more

Call for abstracts, Health Systems Trust

Abstract submissions are now open for the 2020 edition of the South African Health Review (SAHR). The coming edition's theme is equitable healthcare for people with disabilities in South Africa.

The Health Systems Trust is seeking abstracts providing fresh insights into health systems strengthening efforts for equitable healthcare for persons with disabilities. Preference will be given to manuscripts that take into account the complexities and opportunities for developing and sustaining inclusive health systems, especially in the context of universal health coverage.

The review will represent an evidence base which can be used to strengthen health systems and services to inform future policy development in South Africa.

Deadline: 31 October
Find out more

Call for female experts in any field, Quote This Woman+ — Various locations

Quote This Woman+ is a project to establish an online database of women and non-binary experts to improve gender representation in sourcing among the media. During the election season alone, Quote This Woman+ fielded more than 500 calls from journalists wanting to increase the voices of women in the media.

Keen to be quoted? Submit your details to

Deadline: N/A
Find out more

Have something to say or an opportunity to share? Let us know. Email tip-offs, comments or story and opinion suggestions to 

Follow us on TwitterFacebook or Instagram for daily updates.
The Bhekisisa Team
Copyright © 2019 Bhekisisa Development Media NPC. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, Metal Box
25 Owl Street, 4th Floor, Braamfontein Werf, 2092, Johannesburg, South Africa

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