MRC/Wits Agincourt Health and Socio Demographic Surveillance System is a research centre in rural northeast South Africa, which aims to collect rural public health research and data, and uses public engagement with local communities to do so.
Mission and Purpose
MRC/Wits-Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Unit (Agincourt) is a health and socio-demographic surveillance system (HDSS) based in rural northeast South Africa, close to the Mozambique border. The research unit responds to a range of public health issues in the host communities to produce health research and data, aiming to also provide data usable for other rural sub-Saharan communities.  By engaging the public, they enable two-way learning opportunities between researchers and community members.
Origins and Development
In rural South Africa, "morbidity, mortality and growth failure associated with malnutrition" remain concerns.  Established in 1992, MRC/Wits MRC/Wits Agincourt HDSS aims to tackle such public health issues.  The research unit was founded by the current Director, Professor Stephen Tollman, and Senior Scientist, Professor Kathleen Kahn. 
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
MRC/Wits Agincourt Health and Socio Demographic Surveillance System collaborates with a number of local and international research centres and universities.  They aim to build a "research pipeline from masters to PhD students" by hosting postdoctoral fellows and mentoring "young to mid-career scientists, including supporting their preparation for competitive fellowships and grants" thereby supporting local research leadership.  Funded primarily by South Africa's Medical Research Council, a complete list of funders (along with their purpose of funding) is available on their website. 
The Agincourt HDSS study area comprises 31 villages and 120,000 residents.  Community-based work requires nurturing the relationships between the Unit’s Public Engagement Office (PEO), the elected village Community Development Forums and the indunas of the villages in the study site. 
The research centre is a "member of the INDEPTH network, an international network of health and demographic surveillance sites across Africa, Asia and South America.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
The MRC/Wits Agincourt Health and Socio Demographic Surveillance System specializes in public health research and data collection, with their research themes including adolescent and adult health and development as well as social and environmental determinants of health. The unit uses participatory action research and standard verbal autopsy tools to engage communities and learn about public health issues as grounded in local experience.
Major Projects and Events
The research unit's VAPAR programme has engaged in participatory action research projects to address public health challenges such as substance abuse, under-five mortality, HIV, and lacking access to clean water.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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Research outputs are available on their official website.
Participatory Action Research in Agincourt Socio-demographic Surveillance Site
Developing a learning platform to address under-five mortality in rural South Africa
Community perspectives on HIV, violence and health surveillance in rural South Africa
 Harvard University. (2020). Agincourt: MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit. HAALSI Harvard University. Retrieved from https://haalsi.org/links/mrcwits-rural-public-health-and-health-transitions-research-unit
 MRC/Wits Agincourt Unit. (2020). Research. Agincourt.co Retrieved from https://www.agincourt.co.za/?page_id=1824
 MRC/Wits Agincourt Unit. (2020). Staff. Agincourt.co Retrieved from https://www.agincourt.co.za/?page_id=2299
 MRC/Wits Agincourt Unit. (2020). Collaborators and Funders. Agincourt.co Retrieved from https://www.agincourt.co.za/?page_id=1785
 MRC/Wits Agincourt Unit. (2020). Capacity Building. Agincourt.co Retrieved from https://www.agincourt.co.za/?page_id=1888
 MRC/Wits Agincourt Unit. (2020). Public Engagement. Agincourt.co Retrieved from https://www.agincourt.co.za/?page_id=1913
 Research and Learning at Wits Rural Facility. University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Retrieved from https://www.wits.ac.za/campus-life/arts-and-culture/wits-rural-facility/research-at-wits-rural-facility/