Surveys undertaken by the MRC in 2007 and DST in 2011, updated in the period of March to June 2013 was undertaken to determine the current South African cardiovascular, hypertension and diabetes research activities. These surveys confirmed research activities in the areas of public health, clinical research and laboratory research. The following weakness were identified: too few intervention studies aimed at prevention and treatment; hardly any surveys on cardiomyopathies, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, diabetes and obesity; projects lacking information to assist in developing policies regarding cardiovascular and metabolic diseases; and the primary health care research had no specific links to the Department of Health.
The recently formed NCDRU has the advantage over the other research institutions in South Africa in the sense that the Unit aims to address NCD research from laboratories to bedsides. The Unit has an established base of experienced researchers that are able to have a meaningful impact on NCD’s in the South African population as well as other populations. A major research focus is on prevention through population-wide and high risk approaches, implemented across the lifespan. While the initial focus is on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, through a combination of diseases specific vertical programs, and cross-cutting horizontal programs, the unit aims to embark in future research and major NCDs in the country and region.