Available data sources for monitoring non-communicable diseases and their risk factors in South Africa

M Wandai, J Aagaard-Hansen, C Day, B Sartorius, K J Hofman


Background. Health information systems for monitoring chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in South Africa (SA) are relatively less advanced than those for infectious diseases (particularly tuberculosis and HIV) and for maternal and child health. NCDs are now the largest cause of premature mortality owing to exposure to risk factors arising from obesity that include physical inactivity and accessible, cheap but unhealthy diets. The National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013 - 17 developed by the SA National Department of Health outlines targets and monitoring priorities.

Objectives. To assess data sources relevant for monitoring NCDs and their risk factors by identifying the strengths and weaknesses, including usability and availability, of surveys and routine systems focusing at national and certain sub-national levels.

Methods. Publicly available survey and routine data sources were assessed for variables collected, their characteristics, frequency of data collection, geographical coverage and data availability.

Results. Survey data sources were found to be quite different in the way data variables are collected, their geographical coverage and also availability, while the main weakness of routine data sources was poor quality of data.

Conclusions. To provide a sound basis for monitoring progress of NCDs and related risk factors, we recommend harmonising and strengthening available SA data sources in terms of data quality, definitions, categories used, timeliness, disease coverage and biomarker measurement.

Authors' affiliations

M Wandai, Health Systems Trust, Johannesburg, South Africa

J Aagaard-Hansen, Steno Diabetes Centre, Gentofte, Denmark; South African Medical Research Council Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

C Day, Health Systems Trust, Johannesburg, South Africa

B Sartorius, Discipline of Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban; South African Medical Research Council/University of KwaZulu-Natal Gastrointestinal Research Centre, Durban, South Africa

K J Hofman, PRICELESS SA, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Epidemiology; Biostatistics; Non-communicable diseases; Risk factors; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(4):331-337. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i4.11438

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-03-29
Date published: 2017-03-29

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