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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

Food insecurity at university campuses under the spotlight
2015-08-20

 

"Food insecurity is   becoming an increasing problem at South African universities, much to the surprise of university managers." - Dr Louise van den Bergh, senior lecturer and researcher at our department of Nutrition and Dietetics

More than 70% of early university dropouts in the country were forced to abandon their tertiary studies because of food insecurity and financial need.

This was one of the conclusions drawn during the first higher education colloquium on food insecurity. The colloquium was hosted on by the University of the Free State (UFS) on the Bloemfontein Campus on 14 August 2015, where researchers from universities across the country shared their research about food insecurity on university campuses.

In South Africa, university campuses are not usually associated with food insecurity but, over the last few years, tertiary education has become more accessible to an increasing number of first-generation students and students from low-income households.

Some of the research indicated that students from lower-income households are often lacking financially, even with bursaries. The research has also shown that students frequently have to use part of their bursary money to support their families. This results in students not having enough money to buy food, which means they will do almost anything to get food.

A study by the UFS Department of Nutrition and Dietetics found that as many as 60% of our students are food insecure, and experience hunger frequently. This study was the first of its kind in South Africa. In 2011, the UFS launched the No Student Hungry Bursary Programme to provide food bursaries to food-insecure students.

At the opening of the colloquium, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, said by helping students with a basic commodity like food, you give them much more than food; you give them humanity and dignity.

Dr Louise van den Bergh, senior lecturer and researcher in the UFS Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, explains that the problem is considerably more complex than just providing for students financially.

Dr Van den Bergh says that funders need to reassess bursaries, keeping issues such as food insecurity in mind, and not focusing just on tuition.

Research presented at the colloquium: (PDF's van die slides)

UFS Food environment and nutritional practices

UFS Skeleton in the University closet

UKZN Achieving food security

UKZN Food security and academic performance

UKZN Hunger for knowledge

UKZN Perceptions of food insecurity complexities

UW Food acquisition struggles

 

 

 

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