South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
Building a healthy nation through research and innovation


Child and Adolescent Lung Health


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Unit Director: Prof Heather Zar

Globally, paediatric lung diseases are the major cause of childhood mortality and morbidity. Childhood lung diseases, including pneumonia, HIV- associated respiratory diseases and tuberculosis, are major contributors to under-5 mortality in Africa. The incidence and severity of childhood non-communicable respiratory diseases is also very high, with asthma the commonest chronic disease in South African and African children. Increasing evidence links early infections or environmental exposures in childhood with chronic illness such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Research in child health is therefore essential to develop improved preventative and management options for childhood respiratory illnesses and to prevent both childhood and adult chronic diseases.

Goals & objectives of intended research

  • To promote clinical research and the translation of basic science into clinical research to improve diagnosis, prevention and management of specific priority childhood diseases that shape child health in South Africa with a focus on pneumonia, tuberculosis, HIV-associated lung diseases and chronic illnesses such as asthma.
  • To translate clinical evidence into population-level interventions to improve child health through primary health care and community initiatives that can be applied in diverse settings across the country and the continent, with a focus on priority illnesses.

Specific Objectives:

  • To expand and strengthen research and collaborations in child health to improve health in South Africa and the region.
  • To develop a translational, cutting edge research program focused on childhood diseases including national priorities such as pneumonia, HIV and TB.
  • To investigate the impact of early exposures including infectious diseases on child health and on the development of chronic disease.
  • To increase understanding of the risk factors, host responses and long term outcome of early childhood illness.
  • To enhance the health of children and adolescents by developing new strategies for  diagnosis, management and prevention of diseases.
  • To provide a platform for the training of clinician scientists in child health.
  • To promote implementation of research findings into policy and practice.

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Last updated:
29 February, 2016
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