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Without passion there is no road to greatness!

Dr. Natisha Dukhi receives the 2018 Gro Brundtland Week of Women in Sustainable Development from Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Tang Prize Foundation and NCUK President Huey-Jen Jenny Su at NCKU, April 3rd.

Endorsed by Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, granted by Tang Prize Foundation and organized by NCKU, the Gro Brundtland Week of Women in Sustainable Development commits to engage the outstanding female researchers for public health and sustainable development. It empowers an international platform for collaboration and partnership of female researchers in Taiwan and developing countries.

Dr. Dukhi is a Research Specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council in the Department of Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation of South Africa with expertise in Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health in South Africa and globally.

“This award gives me and my research a chance to be recognized at a local, national and international level,” says Dr. Dukhi. With gratitude to many people in her life and career, she particularly appreciates the support given by her mother. “My mother always made time for me and how I achieved my successes in my career. She has always made time to learn of my work and how to get me to achieve my goals. She is still to this day that pillar of strength that is continuously motivating and encouraging me to brace my science career, every day.”

Dr. Dukhi has spent over 12 years of experience in academia, lecturing Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology and Pathophysiology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban University of Technology and Rhodes University. She is also currently an Executive Board of Directors for the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA), a Board member for the “World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology: Scientific and Technical Committee & Editorial Review”, and a member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, and International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE).

Her research topic is “the effectiveness of diet and physical activity interventions conducted in schools in preventing overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: the iLembe School Physical Activity and Nutrition (i-SPAN) study”. The study began in 2017 with stakeholder meetings with members of the Departments of Health, Basic Education and Sports & Recreation. A steering committee was also established. In the first phase, an elicitation research will be conducted to ascertain the extent of health promotion within the school environment, followed by the next phase of nutrition and physical activity intervention.

Children overweight and obesity in South African children is in a critical condition of 13% national prevalence, compared to 6.1% as the global average. This study has the potential to expand to more districts in KwaZulu-Natal province, to become part of the Departments of Health and Education Health Promoting Programme and contribute to the community and district/national policies regarding childhood obesity.

As South Africa expands its health focus from infection diseases to lifestyle related conditions, such as overweight and obesity, Dr. Dukhi expects more health surveys will be conducted at regional and national level, to facilitate science researches and increase public awareness.

She is also involved in the Teen MomConnect Program which was initiated in 2016, to contribute to reduce the risk factor prevalence in pregnant teenagers and their maternal mortality rate from the four leading conditions, including hypertension, non-pregnancy related infections (e.g. HIV/AIDS related, TB or pneumonia), obstetric haemorrhage and medical and surgical disorders). The elicitation research findings will be used to inform the design of Motivational Interviewing (MI) intervention content and structure as well as enhance the original MomConnect messages to be more cognitively and culturally appropriate for teenage pregnant girls.

The study is a collaborative partnership for the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) with Praekelt Foundation (JHB, SA), Michigan University (USA), and National and Provincial Department of Health (WC). “Working within a research environment such as HSRC, affords me the opportunity to be involved at the grass root level of community research that can inform policy, says Dr. Dukhi. However, she points out that South Africa follows a two-tier healthcare system, which is not accessible or equitable to majority of the population, but also observes the government is responding to the restructure and revitalization of the healthcare system.

Having overcome many challenges in her science career, Dr. Dukhi says, “I believe you always encounter situations, frustrations, and setbacks irrespective of where you can be situated. But, having lived and trained in South Africa, I have to say that women researchers are still short changed in the workplace and the outside environment. I have encountered racism, lack of support, on my journey to becoming a doctor but I have always overcome them.”

“I think there is no fixed and fast way to overcoming shortfalls. You have to deal with situations head on, remembering to maintain class and decorum, not just as a woman but also as a human being. Sometimes silence is golden and at other moments you have to have a voice that needs to be heard.”

“South Africa is still undergoing transition in various aspects, and so as an Indian female researcher, I have to constantly prove my worth and that of my research or face being compared to other race groups or being told I am too young. I have dealt with this by letting my research speak for itself, motivating others where I can, sharing the knowledge I possess and simply enjoying what I do,” concludes Dr. Dukhi.

Dr. Natisha Dukhi
2016 PHD in Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Articles published in peer-reviewed journals:

1. Sartorius B, Sartorius K, Taylor M, Aagaard-Hansen J, Dukhi N, Day C, Ndlovu N, Slotow R and Hofman K. Rapidly increasing body mass index among children, adolescents and young adults in a transitioning population, South Africa, 2008–15. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2017; 0(0): 1-11. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyx263

2. Dukhi N, Sartorius B & Taylor M. Mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) performance versus weight for height in South African children (0-59 months) with acute malnutrition. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017; 30(2): 24-28. DOI: 10.1080/16070658.2016.1255483
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/16070658.2016.1255483

3. Dukhi N, Sartorius B & Taylor M. Stunting in children (0-59 months): Prevalence, risk factors and spatial clustering in iLembe district, South Africa. Early Child Development and Care. 2016; 187(12): 1874–1886. DOI:10.1080/03004430.2016.1193501.
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2016.1193501

4. Dukhi N, Southwood S & Srinivas SC. Reflection on active student engagement in an integrative learning context: A case study in Health Promotion. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research. 2015; 48(3): 1-5. DOI: 10.5530/ijper.48.3.1
URL: http://www.ijper.org/sites/default/files/10.5530ijper.48.3.1.pdf

5. Dukhi N and Srinivas SC. Combating increasing Chronic Non Communicable Diseases: The need, progress and way forward for Health Promoting Schools in South Africa. Indian Journal of Pharmacy Practice. 2014; 7(3): 2-9. DOI:10.5530/ijopp.7.3.2
URL: http://www.ijopp.org/article/359

6. Srinivas SC, Wrench W, Bradshaw K & Dukhi N. HIV/AIDS: Preliminary health promotion activity based on service-learning principles from Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research. 2013; 47(1): 106-112. URL: http://www.ijper.org/article/48

7. Srinivas SC, Wrench W, Bradshaw K & Dukhi N. Hypertension: Preliminary health promotion activity based on service-learning principles at a South African National Science Festival. International Journal of Pharmacy Education and Practice. 2012; 8(2): 1-11. (This journal from Samford University is redundant now.)

8. Srinivas SC, Wrench W, Bradshaw K & Dukhi N. Diabetes Mellitus: Preliminary health promotion activity based on service- learning principles at a South African National Science Festival. Journal of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa. 2011; 16(2): 101-106.

9. Srinivas SC, Dukhi N & Wrench W. Obesity: Increased risk of chronic non-communicable diseases in South Africa and India. Indian Journal of Pharmacy Practice. 2009; 2(3): 1-7.
URL: http://www.ijopp.org/article/133
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