School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Masters Degree for Health Economics Researcher

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Ms Taruna Chetty graduated with a Masters degree in Economics.

Raised by parents who are both academics at UKZN, Ms Taruna Chetty who graduated with a Masters degree in Commerce (Economics) attributes her success to them, her family and friends.

She said her mom, Professor Marnormoney Pillay of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences in the Infectious Diseases Cluster, had been a great supporter. ‘She has been an absolute pillar of strength over the years, providing continuous support and encouragement, and always leading by example.’

Her father, Professor Balakrishna Pillay, who is Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning officiated the Graduation ceremony at which she received her degree.

Chetty researched about the Cost-Effectiveness of Using SMS Technology to Increase the Uptake of Voluntary Counselling and Testing For HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

Chetty’s keen interest and passion for public health issues and the financing involved, resulted in her doing an investigation focused on health economics.

‘My research examined the use of standardised cost-effectiveness estimates in priority setting within the South African Healthcare sector,’ explained Chetty.

She worked as a Budget and Policy Analyst in the Public Finance Division of the South African National Treasury between 2009 and 2012, and said she was fortunate to be guided by Dr Mark Blecher, the Chief Director: Health and Social Development in the completion of her Honours research project.

‘During my tenure at the National Treasury, I became aware of the serious challenges facing our country and the African continent in dealing with the scourge of HIV/AIDS and TB. It was then that I made up my mind to be a part of the fight against this syndemic.’

Chetty said balancing her work, studies and being a young wife was one of her biggest challenges. ‘I also found the dissertation writing process very challenging for both my honours and master’s degrees.’

Chetty said students interested in pursuing a career in Health Economics needed to be aware that it could be a challenging field of study but ‘it is extremely rewarding when you think of the long-term impact of your work on those burdened by disease and ill health’.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, she said students should always remember that ‘education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world’.

Chetty is currently employed as a Research Fellow at CAPRISA where she is completing health economics projects. She intends registering for a PhD later this year.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu