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Dietetics in South Africa

Dietetics is a health profession in which the science of nutrition is applied to the management of individuals or communities in states of health and disease. South Africa is faced with a double burden of disease – infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB co-exist with chronic diseases of lifestyle such as non-insulin dependent diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Inadequate nutrition is a common underlying cause in both cases.?

In South Africa there are many career opportunities for dieticians, these include:
  • Private practising dieticians who consult clients/patients in need of advice on nutrition therapy for a particular condition or who need to make lifestyle changes including healthy eating. Clients/patients are followed up and nutritionally supported for as long as is required.
  • Therapeutic dieticians, in public or private hospitals, form part of the multi-disciplinary health care team and are responsible for the nutritional management of various disease conditions. They assess patients and individualise nutrition therapy, prescribe special diets, tube feeds and intravenous feeds as part of the nutritional care plan.
  • Community dieticians may work for the public sector or for non-governmental or community-based organisations, promoting sound nutrition in individuals and communities. They focus on the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding, promotion of growth monitoring, nutrition promotion and education, prevention and treatment of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, nutrition support for specific conditions, empowering people to ensure they can provide food for themselves and their families, as well as monitoring the management of food service in institutions.
  • Consulting dieticians offer their expertise in the field of nutrition to the food, nutrition, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. They advise clients on current food labelling legislation, nutrition regulations and nutritional analyses, product development, the latest developments and trends in nutrition, as well as nutrition related marketing activities. They also often advise the media on nutrition-related stories.
  • Community and consulting dieticians also have a role in the development and administration of food and nutrition policies for government, industry, health institutions and other organisations. They also work in the development of resource materials for health professionals, the community, schools and the food industry.
  • Food service management dieticians manage the provision of healthy and specialised diets to persons in institutions such as health care facilities, correctional services, the defence force, welfare care settings, school hostels or old age homes. They plan, cost and develop menus, control, implement, evaluate and oversee food service systems, including the purchasing, storage, preparation and serving of foods and beverages.
  • As researchers, dieticians may conduct and evaluate dietary studies and other food and nutrition-related research.
  • In the education sector, dieticians may participate in the education and training of students, and medical and other health professionals in higher education institutions.


What is occupational therapy
Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need too or are expected to do, or by modifying their occupations or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. (WFOT, 2012)

Career opportunities
Occupational therapists provide a wide range of services in diverse contexts. Examples of these are hospitals, clients’ homes, schools, places of work, communities, vocational rehabilitation centres, insurance companies and private practices. 


A physiotherapist is an important member of the health care team, taking responsibility for assessing and managing patients' return to functional activity. We study the human body and how injuries, disease and disability affect all aspects of a person’s life.

The Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape has a proud history, going back to the earliest years of the university. In fact, our current Head of Department, Professor Anthea Rhoda, was one of the first students to graduate from the Physiotherapy programme. We are proud that most of our staff members are graduates of this university, who have chosen to return here to help develop the next generation of healthcare professionals for this country.

Even though we are one of the smaller departments in the country, we produce more research per member of staff than almost any other physiotherapy department in the country. We have a strong postgraduate research programme, accepting students from all over Africa with the aim of developing them as academics in order to strengthen the profession across the continent.
Teaching and Learning
The University of the Western Cape has committed to developing academics who embrace a scholarship of teaching and learning, always aiming to improve the student-teacher relationship that lies at the centre of the educational process.

As we move into an increasingly connected society, the Department of Physiotherapy has also embraced technology-mediated teaching and learning as a way to prepare our students for a digital age. We not only recognise the importance of clinical knowledge and skills in the South African healthcare system, but the ability to use emerging technologies as part of effective communication with others.


The Department of Psychology offers a range of programmes spearheaded by academics committed to social change and transformation.

Our offerings range from a Psychology Honours degree to advanced degrees in Clinical Psychology, Research Psychology, as well as Master's and Doctoral degrees focusing solely on thesis and dissertation work, respectively.

Our niche research areas in the department are varied and include but are not limited to: trauma, resilience, digital inclusion, substance abuse, child, student and adult wellbeing, family resilience, men and women’s health and gender-based violence.

We welcome applications from prospective students. For comprehensive details on our academic offerings, including programme specifics, application due dates, and contact information, please visit our academic programmes page.

Our department is deeply invested in research and community engagement, aligning with the University of the Western Cape's strategic goals as outlined in the Institutional Operating Plan (IOP). Through our commitment to education, we aim to nurture and graduate some of the nation's most promising individuals, fostering their growth into engaged scholars, active social participants, and lifelong learners.


We at the Department of Social Work UWC are committed to excellence in social work education, practice and research. We believe in justice, gender equity, human diversity and citizenship for all. We shall continue to strive and pursue these values through our curriculum at UWC that responds to the impulse of our nation and changes communities locally.


The Department of Sport, Recreation and Exercise Science (SRES) provides students with the necessary academic and professional skills to promote health through participation in sport, recreation and physical activities.  

The SRES vision:
  • The vision of the SRES Department is to empower individuals through quality education to contribute to the development of healthy communities
SRES Mission Statement:
  • The SRES department is currently aligning its programmes to the following mission statement: the SRES Department strives to be a centre of excellence in the provision of competent and professional practitioners through innovative research and creative teaching who  will contribute to the development of healthy communities through sport, recreation and exercise  science.


Established in 1993, the school is unique in many respects both in South Africa and in the continent.
  • Academic programme, popular in South Africa and other African countries for its flexible, modular, part-time design and growing array of distance learning materials. School offers postgraduate diploma, Master's and PhD programme in public health.
  • Annual summer and winter schools, probably the largest continuing  education programme in public health in Africa, training over 12,000 participants since 1992.
  • Designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Human Resource for Health Development since 2004.
  • Hosts two SARChi chairs in Health Systems, Complexity and Social Change; and Health Systems Governance.
  • Houses the UWC Centre for Research in HIV and AIDS (CRHA).
  • Most research focuses on health policy and systems, social determinants of health, building a district-based public health system, and pharmaceutical public health


Natural Medicine can be simply defined as any system of medicine that complements and enhances the body's natural capacity to heal by restoring balance without the use of synthetic drugs or chemicals. Natural medicine generally falls under the umbrella term of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The various disciplines of natural medicine are highly diverse in foundations, philosophies and methodologies. 

However, although heterogeneous, the major systems of natural medicine have many common central characteristics that provide a clear distinction from the mainstream medical ethos. These core tenants include a focus on individualising patients from the disease, hence individualising treatments, treating the whole person (as opposed to the disease as a separate entity), promoting self-care and self-healing and recognising the core psychological and spiritual nature of each individual. In addition, many systems focus on good nutrition, lifestyle and preventive practices.

Although natural medicine is associated with less scientific investigation, this knowledge gap is being addressed with an explosion of scientific research into natural medicines and the various principles on which they are based. It is estimated that one third of natural medicines have some published literature supporting their use. In many European countries and America, many, if not most, practitioners of natural medicine systems are registered medical physicians. Therefore, the differences between the numerous natural medicine modalities and conventional medicine are increasingly blurred and are constantly changing. 

  • Natural medicine is the answer to people who are unable to take prescription drugs, either because they are allergic to them, or because they cannot tolerate the long term side effects of chemical drugs.
  • Natural medicines can be used in parallel with conventional therapies to improve the health of the individual and to enable the body to recover quicker.
  • Natural medicine broadens the public choice of remedies for common ailment.
  • Natural medicine has a lower profile of side-effects compared to chemical western medicine.
  • Natural medicine can be very cost-effective and is ideally suited to primary health care. 


The School of Nursing at the University of the Western Cape is located in the Community and Health Science faculty. The school offers education and training in both under and post graduate levels. All programmes offered by the school are recognised by the South African Nursing Council for registration and registered with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The School of Nursing is the largest residential nursing school in the country and offers the Bachelor of Nursing (BNurs) as its core undergraduate programme. The school further offers the Master of Nursing (MNur) and Doctor Philosophy (PhD.) as part of its postgraduate program.

  • The School of Nursing at UWC aims to position itself as an innovative School of Nursing and Midwifery in the county in line with the Minister of Education’s restructuring proposal in 2003 to position the University of the Western Cape as one of two enrolling institutions for undergraduate nursing in the province along with the postgraduate programme.
  • The School of Nursing believes that the process of producing a professional nurse is best achieved through a community, problem and competency based curriculum. We believe that the professional nurse is a community orientated, generalist nurse who is competent in meta-cognitive, problem-solving, partnership-building and self-directed learning skills, as well as the attributes of a caring person.
  • The school believes education does not mean the transmission of information and skills, but aims much more broadly at developing self- learning and personal development in the student. In order to reach these goals, the nursing programme should use teaching and learning strategies that promote active learning.

The School of Nursing at the University of the Western Cape focuses on  excellent performance by:
  • Developing competent nursing practitioners who value and implement a primary health care approach in dealing with individuals, groups and communities.
  • Developing competency through a process and student based curriculum with the emphasis on problem solving, critical thinking and partnership building skill.
  • Operationalising the value of good quality of life (health), for all equal and just, within the framework of respect for uniqueness, dignity and freedom of every human being.
  • Being committed to, and honour the service of mankind through scientifically sound, sensitive and behaviour. 


Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI)

The STTI was founded in 1922, with members in 85 countries. The organisation supports the learning, knowledge, and professional development of nurses making a difference in global health.

Interprofessional Education Unit (IPEU)

The mission of the IPEU is to provide interprofessional educational opportunities and empowerment through developing relevant core curricula, sites of practice for students and deliver services in communities. It strives towards excellence in the field of interprofessional education through subscribing to the principles of partnership, community development and team work. This is accomplished through interprofessional teaching and learning, developing and maintaining partnerships and strengthening leadership and action in communities through service-learning.

Interdisciplinary Centre for Sport Science and Development (ICSSD)


To be Africa’s leading interdisciplinary centre of excellence promoting sport as a powerful tool for development, peace, health, wellbeing and social change through high quality research and combining the areas of sports and health sciences and community development and wellness.

The Interdisciplinary Centre of Excellence for Sports Science and Development (ICESSD) is pursuing the following objectives to fulfil its vision:
  • Conduct productive research activities - establish an inter- and multidisciplinary research and service programme with regular research colloquia, international conferences, exchange and collaboration and research output in the form of publications and conference presentations.
  • Teach and train the next generation of sport leaders - provide continuing education opportunities in the field of sport and health sciences and community development and wellness in the form of under and postgraduate programmes as well as certificate courses and annual summer/winter schools for students, clubs, federations, NGOs, government departments, coaches and consultants as well as any others interested in the field.
  • Provide high performance sports services - provide high performance lab and field services to emerging elite athletes and coaches from traditionally underserved communities.
  • Pursue community outreach - establish an inter- and multidisciplinary community service programme with a focus on youth development, health and wellness and professional development, talent identification and coaching assistance, liaising with federations, sport clubs, schools and community organisations and the provision of holistic community sport leaders programmes, internships and participatory research opportunities.

The central mission of the Centre therefore is twofold:
  • To contribute to the understanding and advancement of sport as a tool for development and peace in South Africa and Africa, through high quality research, teaching, community engagement and new technologies.
  • The application of sport science to advance the physical, social and economic development and wellbeing of South African and African communities.
The Centre does not exist in a vacuum. Not only does it function as part of UWC, guided by the university’s ethos and vision,  it takes as its point of departure the broader national context as well as the realities of Southern Africa and the African continent as a whole.

UWC has been an important sports development node for South Africa and the Interdisciplinary Centre of Excellence for Sports Science and Development has the potential to have a much bigger impact in this crucial area nationally and on the continent.

The Centre aligns itself with the goals set out in the University’s Mission Statement and the project of building a better society. In particular, it identifies with and seeks through its work to advance the University’s commitment to:
  • excellence in teaching, learning and research;
  •  the nurturing of cultural diversity; and
  • responding in critical and creative ways to the needs of a society in transition.
Sports development at and through UWC is a key component in giving effect to our mission and is embedded in the university’s strategic plan. The development of our students, most of whom come from significantly disadvantaged backgrounds, is related to development of the communities they come from.