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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

UFS academic appointed as team doctor for SA Olympic Team
2012-03-22

 

Dr Holtzhausen’s appointment reflects well on the quality of exercise and sports medicine presented at the university.
20 March 2012

Dr Louis Holtzhausen, Head of the university’s Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, has been selected by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) as team doctor for the more than 300 athletes that will represent South Africa at this year’s Olympic Games in London.

“This is definitely one of the most important highlights of my career, in which I’ve worked with professional athletes and top sporting people,” says Dr Holtzhausen, a recognised South African academic in Sports Medicine.

“It is not only an honour to be appointed as team doctor for the South African Olympic Team. It is also a privilege to represent the UFS. The fact that Sascoc approached me reflects well on the quality of exercise and sports medicine that we present here at the university,” says Dr Holtzhausen.

Dr Holtzhausen says he has already worked with some of the athletes in the Olympic Team. These include members of the South African boxing team, the hockey team, as well as track and field athletes that have been preparing for the Olympic Games at the university’s High Performance Unit.

There is, however, hard work ahead for Dr Holtzhausen. His work will start before the team leaves for London in July. “I have to ensure that all the athletes are healthy and that everyone’s immunisation programmes are up to date. We also have to ensure that no athlete takes banned substances,” he says.

During the Games, Dr Holtzhausen will keep an eye on the optimal functioning of every athlete. “Anything that could hamper them medically will be sorted – whether it’s a broken ankle or a cold,” he says.

He will also see to it that medical services are available during the competition. Immediate medical assistance will be available, especially at high contact sports like boxing.

Dr Holtzhausen has also been team doctor for Team South Africa at the All Africa Games, the biggest sporting event in Africa. He was recently appointed as a member of the International Committee and Coordinator for Africa of the worldwide Exercise is Medicine project. This project proposes that exercise be used in the prevention of chronic disease in the general population, as well as in the treatment of people with existing chronic diseases. Dr Holtzhausen is also an honorary member of the South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA). This membership is awarded to members of the medical and scientific community who make significant contributions to the advancement of sports medicine.

Dr Holtzhausen is a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme.
The goal with the Prestige Scholars Programme is to select no more than 100 of the most promising young scholars (typically holding lecturer status) and to make substantial investments in their development towards the professoriate. A tailored, intensive programme of support has been designed which combines international placement working alongside leading scholars in the discipline of the prestige scholar, with intensive mentorship and support from within the university.

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