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Data from SA has shown that over two thirds of young women are overweight and obese. This predisposes them to noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Most women are not exercising enough, and consumption of processed and calorie-dense foods and high amounts of sugar is common.

It was this knowledge that sparked the establishment of the Health Life Trajectories Initiative. It’s being run in SA, India, China and Canada and aims to provide interventions that can help young women stay healthy before, during and after pregnancy. In SA, this randomised controlled trial will provide one-on-one support as well as peer group sessions to over 6,000 young women. The idea is provide them with information, and to help them set and maintain goals for healthier lifestyles.

Researchers from the Medical Research Council and Wits University’s developmental pathways for health research unit are running the South African arm of the study. We wanted to start by better understanding our target population — that is, young women aged 18 to 24 living in Soweto.

Soweto is a large, densely populated urban township which comprises one third of Johannesburg’s population. It is becoming rapidly urbanised, but the majority of people are poor and struggle to provide food for their families.

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