Cape Town, South Africa
Site Institution: Research Centre for Health through Physical Activity Lifestyle and Sport, University of Cape Town
U.S. Institution: Stanford University
Research Areas: Physical Activity, Food Insecurity, Obesity
The Research Centre for Health through Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Sport (HPALS) was accredited by the University of Cape Town (UCT) in October 2017. The Centre is academically located within the Faculty of Health Sciences, in the Department of Human Biology, at UCT. The main campus is located at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA), a not-for profit company that functions as a dissemination, training and implementation partner.
The vision of the Research Centre is to achieve an active, healthy and winning nation through the implementation and translation of science. The mission is to be a Centre of excellence for promoting healthy, active lifestyles and optimal sporting performance, through transformative research, innovation, teaching, training and clinical services. The Centre’s various activities fall under five over-arching objectives, which include: 1) improve health and well-being; 2) reduce the risk of injury; 3) address the barriers to participation in physical activity; 4) optimize human movement; 5) enhance sporting performance.
The HPALS Research Centre has a formal management structure, which includes a director and a senior management group made up of five nationally accredited scientists, each with leadership and management experience at the department, faculty and university level. They represent distinct areas of research focus and expertise, spanning the strategic objectives of the Centre. Furthermore, they each bring local, national and international networks of collaborators, in a leadership capacity. The senior management group is responsible for ensuring that the decisions related to the financial oversight of the Centre, resource allocation and the strategic research focus of the Centre are reviewed and aligned. Under HPALS, there are 10 tenured academic faculty and a number of other research funded senior academic posts, several resident and non-resident honorary academics, technical and administrative support staff, and post-doctoral fellows.
Researchers from the HPALS Research Centre have active collaborations in at least 29 countries, which involve over 200 individuals. There are active collaborations with nearly every tertiary academic institution in South Africa, including the University of Fort Hare and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The Centre’s research on rugby injuries and injury prevention is made possible through a partnership with the South Africa Rugby Union and the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Fund. Two of the Centre’s core research teams lead an international consortium focused on determining the genetic variations related to elite athletic performance and injury predisposition. The director of the Centre has international research collaborations (funding applied for, secured or pending, co- publishing) in more than 17 countries, not including the more than 40 countries who will be part of the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance in 2021-2022.
Members of the UCT HPALS Research Centre are committed to research translation and solution-oriented research, to address the five strategic objectives. Some examples of engaged scholarship include: 1) introducing evidence-based recommendations for changes in both national and international rugby rules, reducing catastrophic injuries, and improving the training of coaches, officials and medical staff to make the sport safer; 2) contributing to IOC position statements on children and sport, and exercise and NCDs, 3) serving as expert consultants for the WHO Global Strategy for Diet and Physical Activity and Health, the Global Physical Activity Guidelines (2010, 2020), and the Global Action Plan for Physical Activity; 4) contributing to the Strategy for Prevention and Control of Obesity in South Africa (2015-202), and service on the Ministerial Advisory Committee on E-Health; development of strategies to improve cognitive outcomes in early childhood and national physical activity guidelines for children; 5) serving as the lead institution since 2007 on the Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card, and; 6) partnering with provincial governments and non-profit organizations to develop and evaluate population-based programs promoting health through physical activity.