Speaking Truth Unto Power

How often do you hear someone saying “Policy makers don’t use  evidence?” That’s cobblers. They don’t always use evidence and they seldom respond immediately, but that is not the same as not using it. South Africa provides the worst and best examples.

The worst example was the tragic refusal of Thabo Mbeki‘s government to acknowledge the cause of AIDS and  the consequent culpable failure to intervene in the epidemic.

The best example is the current government’s rapid response to evidence – firstly that the prevalence of hypertension in South Africa is one of the highest in the world, and secondly, that the salt content of bread and processed food is very high. The government met with academics and industry representatives and successfully reduced salt levels in processed food through regulation. The process is described in an excellent article,[1] which Prof Alex Ezeh, Director of the African Population and Health Research Center, drew to my attention.

–Richard Lilford, Director CLAHRC WM


  1. Hofman KJ & Tollman SM. Population health in South Africa: a view from the salt mines. Lancet Global Health. 2013; 1(2): e66-7.

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