HUMBLED: Professor Laetitia Rispel
Cape Town - Northern Cape-born Professor Laetitia Rispel has been elected as the first woman from Africa and only the third woman in the 50-year history of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) to preside over the organisation.

Rispel, who completed her five-year term as Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand last year, is currently the research Chair at the Health Workforce for Equity and Quality at the university.

Having published extensively on several aspects of health policy and the transformation of South Africa's health system, she will now go on to lead the WFPHA, a partner of the World Health Organisation for the 2018 World Health Assembly.


“I am excited, but I also feel humbled by the confidence that the member organisations have placed in me. Ten years ago I didn't even know that there was an organisation called the World Federation of Public Health Associations.

“I am passionate about advocating health equity, which must be a centrepiece of all disease control priorities or health service delivery strategies. My own research on human resources for health will constitute an important part of my activities,” she said.

Rispel said the federation was a non-governmental organisation constrained by its limited financial resources, so one of her first priorities as the new president would be to raise money from ethical sources.

She has developed a strategic plan for the organisation, which includes advocating health equity and global policies to improve the health of populations; promoting, supporting and strengthening member associations; and developing and advancing public health practice, education, training and research.

These are but a few of the goals that Rispel has on her agenda. She also plans to encourage all member organisations to elect women or young people on to their executive structures, as the vast majority of these are dominated by men.

The ANC Women’s League congratulated Rispel on the accomplishment and said her success should encourage women across the country to reach their goals despite the oppression of women on the basis of their gender, race and class.


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Cape Argus