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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

Prof. Letticia Moja a winner in her category
2004-08-17

 

Prof. Moja a finalist in award 
'Every member of staff is important to me'

Michelle Cahill - Bloemnuus

IF you are in need of a dose of inspiration, try and get an appointment with Prof. Letticia Moja, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Science at the University of the Free State. It will not be easy as she has an extremely tight schedule, over and above being a finalist in the 2004 Shoprite/Checkers Woman of the Year competition.

 

Although not a born and bred Free Stater, this dynamic woman has come to love the Free State. "Once you get past the mindset of a small town and all the negatives surrounding it, it is an absolutely wonderful experience," Moja said.

Moja was born in Pretoria and grew up in Garankuwa as the second eldest of five children. "That was nothing special. I was not the eldest and I wasn't the youngest," she quipped. She had two younger brothers, one of whom died in a car accident and then two sisters.

She went to school in Pretoria and her first contact with the Free State was when she wrote her matric at Moroka High School in Thaba Nchu. "That was one of the best schools for us at that time," she says. After completing matric, she went on to study medicine in KwaZulu-Natal.

In 1982 she returned "home" and completed her internship at the Garankuwa Hospital. Hereafter she specialised in gynaecological obstetrics at Medunsa.

She became the head of the gynaecological obstetrics unit and later opened a branch in Pietersburg.

"This was just about the most heart-rending time of my life. You saw people travelling for up to three days just to see a doctor," she says. "Here we really interacted with the community."

In 2001 she was invited by the University of the Free State to apply for the job of vice-dean of the Faculty of Health Science. "I wasn't too keen," she says, "but they kept on calling to find out if I had applied or not," she says with a smile. "Eventually I gave in and was appointed."

She thought she would work a couple of years under Prof. Kerneels Nel, then the dean of the faculty. "Unfortunately that was not to be. I had hoped that I could learn from him," Moja says.

Prof. Nel died of a heart attack in 2003 after which Moja deputised for him before being appointed as dean.

"This brought along a whole newset of challenges," she says, "Now I have to work out budgets and I need to know what human resources are," she jokes. This has prompted her to take up her studies again and she is currently doing her MBA.

"It has certainly been a challenge to go into management and without my support structure I most certainly wouldn't have been able to do it," Moja says.

Moja is actively involved in her church and serves on various committees including the Health Professional Council where she is acting president of the Medical and Dental Board and the Provincial Aids Council.

To her no job is menial. She recalls when she used to have "high tea" with her staff in Gauteng and Limpopo. "One of the cleaning ladies used to think her job was menial. That is just not so. No hospital can do without even the lowest position. Imagine stepping over rubbish while you're trying to catch a baby. To me everybody is important no matter what you do. "

Moja's eldest daughter is studying for her B.Accounting degree at Wits . Her youngest daughter is in Gr. 9 at Eunice and she has also brought along her niece, who is in Gr. 8 at Eunice. "You see, we need to be three girls in the house."
She feels honoured to have been nominated by the institution especially as it is traditionally male-dominated. "It is not about me, but about the support structure. Nobody can do it on their own. It is a team effort."
BLOEMNUUS - VRYDAG 9 JULIE 2004

 

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