University of Michigan (UM) / Fogarty International Center (FIC)

Programme for Research and Training in Environmental and Occupational Health in Southern Africa


The FIC / UM Programme for Research and Training in Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) has over the last 13 years (1996 – 2009; in two completed five-year cycles and now in the second year of the third five-year cycle) contributed extensively to the enhancement of efforts in research training and capacity building and sustainability in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region.

This programme, initiated by the University of Michigan (Programme Manager – Prof Thomas Robins; Programme Co-Managers in South Africa – Prof Rajen Naidoo and Prof Mohamed Jeebhay), in collaboration with SADC institutions, is directed towards supporting research and training in environmental and occupational health in Southern Africa.

The Programme has funded short-term training, postgraduate studies and research projects, and has served as a catalyst for a variety of other related initiatives in the Region, by dovetailing with other programmes, e.g. the Work and Health in Southern Africa (WAHSA) Programme.

Collaborating Institutions

Collaborating regional and international institutions include SADC and the World Health Organization (WHO/ILO joint effort on OHS). A non-exhaustive list of collaborating institutions in South Africa includes the University of Cape Town (School of Public Health and Family Medicine), University of KwaZulu-Natal (Department of Community Health), the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH), Department of Minerals and Energy, Mines Health and Safety Council (MHSC), Medical Research Council (MRC), Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Programme-Specific Aims

Over the last 13 years, the programme plan has been realized through the accomplishment of the following specific aims:

  • To recruit, select, and enroll, with full funding, citizens of SADC nations in University of Michigan PhD or Masters Degree programmes in EOH
  • To recruit, select, and fund citizens of SADC nations to complete short term (one to six months) programmes of study or collaboration at the University of Michigan in laboratory or research methodologies in EOH
  • To deliver a series of short courses taught by University of Michigan faculty and local experts to EOH professionals in Southern Africa
  • To recruit and select citizens of SADC nations other than South Africa to receive full scholarships for the completion of diplomas or degrees in EOH fields being offered at South African academic institutions
  • To assist in the development and delivery of advanced level occupational hygiene courses offered as part of a Masters Degree programme in Occupational Hygiene at the University of the Witwatersrand / National Institute for Occupational Health in Johannesburg
  • To assist in the development and delivery of web-based diploma or degree programmes in EOH to be offered in the SADC region by South African academic institutions
  • To directly support the in-country EOH research of junior- to mid-level researchers from SADC nations
  • To sponsor biennial conferences to review regional developments in EOH, assist in setting of regional research priorities, review the activities conducted under this grant, and develop consensus around planned future actions.

Progress to Date

Over the first 13 years of the grant, there have been approximately 50 successful Fogarty applicants from SADC countries. The training received or currently being received has included postgraduate studies at the University of Michigan and at Southern African Universities, short-term training in focused EOH fields at the University of Michigan and awards for research project funding of junior- to mid-level researchers. Additionally a number of short courses, workshops and seminars in various EOH fields have been conducted in the SADC region, with part or full funding from the Fogarty grant. Annual meetings of stakeholders and the Fogarty Review Committees have been held, as well as biennial conferences to plan yearly activities and review progress of the programme; these meetings have all been funded by the grant.

To date, five Fogarty Programme conferences have been held: Johannesburg (February 2001); Drakensberg (February 2002); Lusaka (October 2003); Johannesburg (September 2005), Maputo (February 2008) and Cape Town (March 2009). The overall purposes of the conferences have been to review regional developments in environmental and occupational health and the role played by the Fogarty Programme in these developments; to review the activities conducted under the grant over the 13 years; to review the status of new international initiatives in the SADC Region; and to plan future collaborations amongst conference participants.

Current Status

The third and current Fogarty funding cycle has focussed on expanding the occupational and environmental health capacity available in four SADC countries with Fogarty Resource Centres – Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique – to assist their development into academic research and training centres of excellence. Calls were made in 2008 for applications for masters and doctorate degree programmes at three South African universities (Witwatersrand, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal), from nationals of the four aforementioned SADC member states. It is envisaged that there will be a second call for applications for higher degrees later in the current funding cycle (2008-2012).