Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in South Africa


The Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in South Africa programme aims to inspire and sustain the changes South Africa needs to bridge the enormous gulf between rich and poor and build a healthier nation.

The programme is driven by the vision of a South Africa in which all people enjoy better health and well-being. To achieve it, the country needs bold leaders to tackle the severe social and economic inequities that determine the health of individuals, communities and populations.

Fellows mobilize to address the root causes of inequity to secure lasting improvements in health outcomes for all.


The Programme

The Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in South Africa programme offered by TEKANO, selects up to 30 fellows each year to participate in a programme of learning and experience that will enhance their ability to inspire and secure progressive social change.

The programme delivers:

  • 20 to 30 Fellows annually

  • 12-month non-residential program with 6 in-person modules of 5 days each (described below)

  • Courses at multiple locations throughout South Africa, including Eastern and Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng

  • Opportunities for continued community, collaboration and access to resources to support Fellows and their work.


The 2017-2018 Fellows Programme thus far had three modules that addressed several themes/aspects regarding health equity. These may change each year as needs be, based on collective learning, context or our focus at the time.


Module 1: Building collective leadership for change 

This module aims to explore the identity of activist leaders within the socioeconomic and political context of the struggle for social justice in South Africa. In it, they are encouraged to develop historical perspectives on oppression, be it through race, class and gender, and to explore how power inequities shape South Africa’s present-day challenges of unemployment, underemployment, access to education and other social services, land reform, spatial segregation and gender-based violence, amongst others. A field visit to the Apartheid Museum grounds the exploration of context in this module.

They consider who they are as a collective, brought together by a common commitment to act to strengthen social justice. They have the opportunity to tell their personal life stories and the choices that have brought them thus far in their journeys towards leadership and activism. They then identify the leadership qualities and competencies required in government and civil society at the moment, and through this, shape their own leadership development agenda.

As they build their community, they equip themselves with creative expression, communication skills and collective and individual self-awareness. They will learn to trust each other and hopefully have fun in the process.


Module 2: Nutrition and Food Security

This module is focused on the issue of nutrition, food and food systems and uses this topic to acquaint you with the “social determinants (SDH) of health and health equity” We hope that this module will provide you with principles and frameworks to better understand SDH and how they relate to health inequities.

We also introduce in this module the complexities of globalization and how it impacts on our food environment and food choices and thus our health. We offer some suggestions of policy actions and the roles you might play individually and collectively in these.


Module 3: Health and Health Systems

Health is one of the most complex development goals to achieve. An analysis of the causes of ill-health in South Africa immediately exposes inequities in living and working conditions and, underlying this, injustice operating through historically entrenched systems of political and economic power and social relations. As described in Module 2, health is much more than an outcome of biological and behavioural factors; there are profound structural and social determinants which impact on health and wellbeing at an individual and population level. These structural and social determinants require coordinated work across many sectors and across different levels of state and societal organisation (local, national, global). Hence advocacy initiatives within government and civil society and across sectors and levels need to join together to bring about the improved health we desire for all.

Module 4: Power and privilege as drivers of Inequity

During module 3, and in response to field visits done by Fellows, systems of power and privilege emerged as important realities to grapple with in relation to ongoing health inequities in South Africa; and Fellows found this a particular concern after so many years into our democracy. Many of us were triggered by the tangible evidence of poor access to health care that we witnessed.

Time was therefore given for Module 4 to explore how power and privilege shape health inequities through structures of gender, class and race. The opportunity of being in the United Kingdom was used to think about the global forces of power that have historical and current impact. It provided the opportunity to explore the inequities that exist within the UK, so that we challenge the notion that the developed north offers solutions to the global south (including South Africa), when they are also grappling with increasing inequity.