Dec 2015 / Jan 2016

Fight against a quadruple burden of diseases

Another milestone in the fight against a quadruple burden of diseases
Cabinet has recently approved the National Public Health Institute of South Africa (NAPHISA) Bill, 2015 (see Government Gazette No 39392, Vol. 605 of 11 November 2015 ) for public comments. The Bill will assist in conducting disease and injury surveillance and provide specialised public health services, public health interventions, training and research directed towards the major health challenges affecting the population of the Republic; and provide for matters connected therewith. There are pockets of excellence in the surveillance systems of communicable and noncommunicable diseases in South Africa. These systems are managed by different institutions and there is no institutional capacity for providing coordinated and integrated disease and injury surveillance data.

The establishment of NAPHISA will help to enhance health systems effectiveness.

The preamble of the Bill captures the spirit and overarching objective of what the Department of Health seeks to achieve:

Recognising that the right of all South Africans to quality health requires the State to take legislative and other measures to achieve the availability of health services, and a system of health protection focused on access, equity, efficiency and quality.

The aim of NAPHISA is to provide integrated and coordinated disease and injury surveillance, research, monitoring and evaluation of services and interventions directed towards the major public health problems affecting persons in South Africa.

The NAPHISA’s core functions will be to:
  • Coordinate surveillance systems that monitor diseases and injuries
  • Provide specialised reference laboratory and referral services
  • Provide training and workforce development
  • Conduct research and support public health interventions aimed at reducing the burden of diseases and injuries and thus improving the health of the population.

Many countries have found that National Public Health Institutes play an important role in identifying health problems and informing the appropriate health system response. Currently data that informs health policy is fragmented and this makes it difficult for the Department of Health to respond timeously to the actual health needs. NAPHISA will greatly improve evidence-based policy decision-making and mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the impact of interventions is measured and its effectiveness evaluated.

The model of NAPHISA has been benchmarked against international best practice and against the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA – a well-established public health institute. There is also an established international network of Public Health Institutes and an African network of NPHIs (IANPHI-Africa). They are positioned to provide peer support, collaboration and knowledge sharing to new and existing institutes internationally and across the continent.

It is intended that the functions and role of NAPHISA will be positioned at a national, regional, continental and international level. Some of the existing activities in the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) are already positioned at the level of international collaboration.

NAPHISA will have memorandum of agreements with the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) and other entities to ensure that key objectives are realised.

What does NAPHISA seek to achieve?


  • Promote cooperation between the Republic and other countries with regard to the epidemio-logical surveillance and management of diseases and injuries
  • Coordinate, develop or maintain surveillance systems to collect, analyse and interpret health data to guide health interventions
  • Use surveillance data to advise on setting health policies, priorities and planning
  • Use public health information for monitoring and evaluation of policies and interventions
  • Coordinate reference laboratory and referral services
  • Provide leadership and direction to provinces and local authorities in disease and injury surveillance and outbreak response
  • Strengthen capacity of the health workforce in health surveillance to reduce the burden of disease and injury
  • Strengthen cross-border and regional public health efforts
  • Strengthen epidemiology and surveillance of communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, cancer, injury and violence prevention
  • Advise the Minister on strategies to improve the health of the population
  • Support the health response and provide recommendations to government on control measures for disease outbreaks and mitigating risks and hazards for injury and violence
  • Collaborate with relevant government departments and government agencies to implement communication strategies on public health issues and outbreak response
  • Provide technical support to all spheres of government and other regulatory bodies on surveillance of communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, cancer, injury and violence prevention
  • Conduct research to inform policy and guidelines on communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, cancer surveillance, injury and violence prevention and develop processes for dissemination of research findings to key stakeholders
  • Strengthen advocacy, social mobilisation and partnerships for addressing communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, cancer surveillance and injury and violence prevention
  • Provide training and technical information on health issues to health professionals, government and regulatory bodies
  • Contribute to human resource development in public health
  • Maintain accredited reference and specialised laboratories for pathogen detection, disease and injury surveillance and monitoring, outbreak response and the provision of scientific evidence to prevent and control infectious diseases.

NAPHISA will increase the capacity to monitor communicable/non- communicable disease and injuries, thereby aiding the early detection, prevention and response to these conditions. This will ultimately contribute to the control of diseases and reduction of morbidity and mortality.

NAPHISA will be a national resource that serves public health interest and is intended to provide for a system of health protection that focuses on access, equity, efficiency and quality.

The intended outcome is improved quality of real-time disease and injury surveillance, to provide specialised public health services and formulate evidence-based public health intervention recommendations.

NAPHISA is another milestone in the Department’s determination to reduce the quadruple burden of diseases and to meet the National Development Plan health targets.

A long and healthy life for all South Africans

For more information on the NAPHIS Act, please visit the Department of Health'w website:

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