I was born in 1956 in Burgersdorp in the small Karoo in South Africa. My father was a sheep farmer and my mother was a housewife. I was raised with strong religious and family values, a clear understanding of inequalities practised in my country and a curiosity to gain a deeper understanding in real life issues. I am a registered nurse by profession and completed my MSocSc.(Nursing) in 1990 at the Free State University, South Africa. I obtained my PhD. in Nutrition in 2001 at the former Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, South Africa.
I am a nutrition and health epidemiologist aiming my research towards population health and well-being. I work mainly in disadvantaged communities. I have a holistic view on health with specific abilities to integrate knowledge, the understanding of different health disciplines and their roles in health.
Over the past few years the focus of my work has moved from mono-disciplinary to transdisciplinary work. From 1999-2003 my focus was mainly on nutrition and non-communicable diseases; 2004-2007 my focus moved more towards the nutrition transition; 2008-2009 another dimension was added by investigating other factors in relation with nutrition that effects health such as HIV/AIDS; bone health, and biodiversity studies. From 2010 to the present my research focus grows towards a transdisciplinary approach to promote health in communities.
The future for me lies within the hands of balanced and well informed responsible people. At the kernel of this lies healthy and well nourished individuals working together in integrated teams setting an example of caring, healthy ways of life and respect for others. I hope that I can employ the most important aspect of my abilities that favours my career the most in future on a broader podium – my ability to ‘see the bigger picture’ and to lead strategically towards an outcome while integrating knowledge as it became available. I have the maturity and knowledge of my own discipline and personal abilities to contribute positively to a team approach.
The following activities, positions held, appointments and prizes received illustrate my commitment and innovative thinking towards population health as a nurse and nutritionist. Besides study leader for postgraduate students, reviewer for several journals and local funding organizations, I hold the following positions: I was invited and serve as member of the scientific committee of the Belgian NGO, Nutrition Third World (NTW) since 2007. My mandate was renewed 2010-2014.
I am the principal investigator in the prospective urban rural epidemiology (PURE) study (coordinated from the Population Health Research Institute, Ontario, Canada) in South Africa. I am a consortium member of the the EU 7th framework funded sustainable nutrition research for Africa in the years to come (SUNRAY) study (coordinated from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp) and biodiversity for better health study (coordinated by Bioversity International, Kenya). I was a founding member of the SA higher education community engagement forum (SAHESEF) in 2009. Since then I am the leader of the working group on research and community engagement, tasked to develop national guidelines to integrate research in community engagement.
I received several awards: I was part of the team receiving the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa award for continued and sustained contribution to nutrition in 2005. I lead the team who was awarded by SANTAM for the best community development project for income generation for women in tertiary institutions (2005, 2006). I received an award of special acknowledgement from NWU (2010) for excellent and sustainable community engagement. I received the STALS award from the South African Academy for Arts and Sciences for my contribution to research in South Africa through team work (2012). I was the winner of the distinguished researcher award from the South African Ministry of science and technology’s South African women of the year awards 2012 for the development of rural women.