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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 Faculty of Law and Department of Health join hands to combat modern day slavery
2012-10-03

At this event, were from the left: Dr Adri Krieger and Dr Mariaan Kotze. Both are from the Department of Health: Directorate Forensic Services. Far right is Dr Beatri Kruger from the Unit for Children's Rights and the Department of Criminal and Medical Law at the UFS.
4 October 2012

Research and court cases confirm that the trade in people is a reality in South Africa. According to Dr Beatri Kruger from the Unit for Children's Rights and the Department of Criminal and Medical Law at the University of the Free State (UFS), complex challenges are faced in combating human trafficking. One of these challenges is a lack of knowledge of this crime and the difficulty in identifying trafficked victims.

To address the lack of knowledge, a number of discussions took place between Dr Kruger and delegates from the Department of Health.

A project has been initiated to address this problem in the public health sector. A need to raise awareness and provide training to medical practitioners to better understand human trafficking was identified. The most important aim of this initiative is to empower medical staff, to identify trafficked victims that visit hospitals and clinics countrywide and to also treat them appropriately in light of the severe trauma they have often been exposed to. The initiative will also empower medical practitioners to refer patients to other service providers such as social workers and psychologists.

The talks with medical practitioners from the Department of Health have led to training and awareness raising that will be provided at some of the local hospitals before the end of the year. Further training seminars are planned for medical practitioners, which will include a presentation by Dr Kruger on legal issues that are relevant for staff in the public health sector. The multidisciplinary cooperation that was established between representatives from the UFS Faculty of Law and the Department of Health has contributed substantially to a more effective response to human trafficking in South Africa.
 

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