STOP-SA (Slow, Stop, or Stem the Tide of Obesity in the People of SA): Social Mobilisation to Address the Challenge of Obesity and Food Insecurity

Project Description:

This project seeks to understand and address the disproportionate burden of obesity in women, in particular, the vulnerable, urban poor and women-headed households from disadvantaged South African communities.  The following work packages, here identified as “conversations”, will be structured from the perspective of these communities and their members, who operate under choice-constrained conditions.  Each “conversation” begins with a question concerning food choice and other health behaviour choices, and an opportunity to engage relevant meso-level and other-order actors, such as formal/informal retailers and vendors, local policymakers and planners, media and marketing.  The objective of each of these interactions will be to jointly leverage and re-frame the choice set for food and physical activity (PA).  The final conversation is with members of the community, amongst themselves.  This “conversation” begins to address strategies that are generated at the community level; people and organisations, who, in the absence of adequate macro- and meso-level responses to real needs, develop alternative and socio-culturally relevant mechanisms to identify, define, and address these needs in novel and extra-policy ways.  One such example is the cooperative and emergent organisation, stokvel (a unique and ubiquitous African mechanism; a type of private credit union, which can alleviate financial constraints of food-insecure households and leverage purchasing power).


  • UCT Research Centre for Health through Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Sport
  • Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town
  • Department of Anthropology, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
  • School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape
  • Stanford University Prevention Centre
  • African Centre for Cities


10-12 community-dwelling volunteers who are members of specific grocery stokvels or similar community social organisations.  We will engage at least 4 stokvels or similar organisations for our initial pilot study

Research Question:

The aim of this project will be to work with community socio-political structures and organisations to reinforce emergent initiatives and opportunities and create new sites of engagement that recognise the experiential knowledge of the community.  It is important in this objective to ensure that the different micro-, meso- and macro-level actors form an integral part of the research focus.  We will be using “citizen science” (Our Voice) to frame the food and PA “choice set” that will form the theoretical/methodological base to this “conversation” as well as a platform for advocacy

Our Voice Impact

"This experience has changed my life.  I see inadequacies everywhere I go as it relates to pedestrian access and safety.  I even stop [at] construction sites to remind them to be considerate of the handicapped in our community.  Thank you all so much for this awareness and empowerment to require change."

~ Pam Jiner, GirlTrek Advocacy Leader, Denver CO