Strengthening public health in South Africa: building a stronger evidence base for improving the health of the nation

An assessment of the relative burden attributable to selected risk factors provides an important evidence base for prioritising risk factors that should be targeted for public health interventions. Selecting interventions should be based on a robust and transparent process of scientific evaluations of their effectiveness, as well as assessment of their cost effectiveness, local applicability and appropriateness, and likely effects on health inequalities. Establishing such an evidence base is an ongoing process that is still at an early stage in South Africa. A recent review of disease control priorities for developing countries (DCPP) examined the global evidence regarding the effectiveness of interventions for major health burdens. Despite acknowledging the lack of intervention trials in developing countries, this DCPP review provides a unique resource for identifying interventions that might be useful in South Africa.