Enabling equitable access to health – South Africa Workshop Report

A group of esteemed researchers, early career researchers and practitioners joined forces for a four day workshop, ENABLING EQUITABLE ACCESS TO HEALTH: EMBRACING NEW DESIGN TECHNOLOGIES, at the Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein. Focus was on patient specific devices such as surgical implants, assistive technology, prosthetics and orthotics.

The workshop provided cross-disciplinary networking and development opportunities for early career researchers in the rapidly evolving field of patient specific healthcare devices. Experts from South Africa were joined with peers from the UK, all of whom had an interest in using advanced design engineering methods to increase the number of people who can be treated efficiently.

Groups of specialist expertise were formed mixing the UK and South African participants. Structured sessions, assisted by South African and UK Mentors, helped the participants to identify the overarching challenges and sub-challenges that currently prevent technologies from being used more routinely and efficiently. These structured sessions were complemented with visits to local clinics and a tour of the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacture (CRPM), which is based on the Central University of Technology campus. The Mentors, Prof. Du Plessis (Stellenbosch University), Prof. Holt (Cardiff University in the UK) and Mr Booysen (CRPM) also inspired the participants, providing an insight into career development opportunities, their fields of work and how they collaborate widely to produce high impact work.

Later days of the workshop were used to develop research proposals, inspired by the previous work. Specific themes around teaching/education, the use of over-the-internet software to facilitate international best-practice collaborating, metallurgy/engineering, rehabilitation engineering, shape optimisation and more were formed. The bones of projects were developed by first thinking about how the they would address the need for improved access to healthcare. The groups identified that issues such as cost, access to technology, the need for high quality standards that meet local needs, and technical engineering limitations could all be addressed through expertise within the collaborators.

An elevator pitch aimed to grab the attention of potential funders provided the final wrap up for the workshop. These were recorded to act as a stimulus to maintain momentum and as a reference to improve upon as the projects are detailed. We look forwards to taking these projects on and identifying additional partners with a shared interest.

This work was supported by a Newton Fund Researcher Links grant, ID 2017-RLWK8-10536, under the UK-South Africa Newton Fund. The grant is funded by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and delivered by the British Council. For further information, please visit The National Research Foundation in South Africa have also supported this workshop.

The workshop was developed between Dr Dominic Eggbeer, Head of Surgical & Prosthetic Design at PDR, Cardiff Metropolitan University, and Dr JG van der Walt, Senior Researcher, Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, CUT. The South African host researcher for the initiative was Prof Igor Yadroitsev, CUT.

Further details about the workshop and the funders can be found here

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