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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

Laptop in, paper out
2013-07-31

 

Prof Pieter Nel gives advice to students.
Photo: Johan Roux
31 July 2013

The first major steps to a paperless lecture environment for the School of Medicine were taken in July 2013 with the presentation of laptops to all first-year- medical students.

The aim is to have the entire undergraduate medical programme computer-driven within a few years and to get rid of paper in the classroom.

Prof Pieter Nel, Programme Director: Health Sciences at the school in the Faculty of Health Sciences, said, “As far as we know, this action is the first of its kind in any medical school in South Africa whereby an entire class are supplied with computers for this purpose. We also have no knowledge of anything similar in any programme within any other faculty at any university in South Africa.”

All first-year medical students received laptops. The UFS is facilitating the process to provide students with computer access via their own laptops. “The reason for this is that the undergraduate health-sciences programme will be totally computerised from now on. Students will therefore utilise their laptops in all their contact sessions.”

The entire building where teaching takes place is equipped with Wi-Fi. The students buy the laptops at a much lower cost than the commercial price.

Prof Nel said the printing costs of study material during a student’s undergraduate study years can amount to as much as R5 000.

In future, first-year students will receive laptops, computerising the entire undergraduate health-sciences programme within a few years, Prof Nel said.

During the presentation of the first laptops, Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, referred to this action as a big step forward in modernising the undergraduate training of medical students in the faculty.

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