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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

Colloquium probes solutions for student hunger
2015-08-03

While higher education is deemed necessary for future financial security, high tuition and accommodation fees, as well as increasing food prices, are forcing students to drop out of university.

Dr Louise van den Berg, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the University of the Free State (UFS), says university campuses are not often associated with food insecurity, but, due to the increase in first-generation students and students of low-income households receiving tertiary education, student hunger at some of the country’s prominent campuses needs urgent intervention.

On 14 August 2015, the University of the Free State (UFS) will host the first higher education colloquium in the country, on food insecurity on university campuses.  Best practices will be shared, exploring the available research on student food insecurity at institutions of higher education. Programme of the colloquium.

A study by the UFS Department of Nutrition and Dietetics found that as many as 60% of students on our campuses were food-insecure, and experienced hunger. This study was the first of its kind in South Africa, and led to the No Student Hungry Bursary Programme (NSH) at the UFS. The level of severe food insecurity reported was much higher than that reported in Australia, New York, and Hawaii by the only other three studies that have been done.

“The UFS is not the only campus struggling with food insecurity,” say Dr Van den Bergh.

“The general misconception is that a student, having money for studies, should have money for food. Funders need to reassess bursaries, keeping issues such as food insecurity in mind, and not just focusing on tuition.”

Bursaries, especially government funding, became easily available to bridge the inequality gap in our country.

“Although bursaries pay for tuition, many students have no resources for food. Universities currently have a 50% drop-out rate currently, with many students dropping out due to poverty.”

 

What is NSH?

 

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