WORLD HEALTH DAY: TAKING A LOOK AT OUR HEALTH
By: Zimasa Magudu
The 7th of April marked the annual World Health Day, a day that celebrates the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948. The day is also an opportunity to highlight awareness, concerns and achievements and provide information in priority areas of public health, with the global theme for this year being Vector-borne Diseases
Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by vectors- organisms- that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person to another. These types of diseases are commonly found in tropical areas as well as areas that do not have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation systems. Some of the more well-known vectors include mosquitoes, snails, ticks and bugs. The most common and deadliest vector-borne disease is Malaria which caused an estimated 627 000 deaths in 2012 according to thr Woeld Health Organisation
The World Health Day will spotlight some of the common vectors as well as raise awareness about the threats posed by vectors and vector-borne diseases and provide communities with information as to how to deal with such diseases because these types of diseases have begun to spread across their boundaries and continue to have a huge effect on the mortality rates, especially in Africa.
The South African health services have other issues within the health sector to divert attention to, aside from vector-borne diseases, such as the National Health Insurance (NHI), the progress on HIV as well as the Human Papilloma Virus(HPV) vaccine to analyse progress on.
More than R492 billion of the national government’s spending over the next three years will go towards health as the country prepares for the full implementation of the National Health Insurance scheme. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that more than R221 million would be made available from the 2014 budget for the national health insurance grant in order to strengthen district health structures in the country.
Gordhan further added that in addition to hospital and clinic refurbishment programs, for which over R19 billion has been earmarked, about R1.2 billion has been set aside for doctors’ contracts as South Africa currently has a shortage of doctors.
“More than R300 million will go towards the establishment of an office of Health Standards Compliance, which will serve as an independent public entity responsible for inspecting the country’s health facilities,” said Gordhan in his 2014 budget speech.
“The NHI aims to achieve universal health coverage and will ensure access to basic health services regardless to pay and aims to promote an insurance system to protect individuals from falling into poverty from catastrophic health expenditures,” said Dr. Sarah Barber who is the WHO representative to South Africa.
The NHI aims to address cost escalation in the private sector and improve the financing and quality of public services, primarily through the establishment of the national health insurance fund, according to Dr. Barber.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told the press in a media briefing in Cape Town earlier this year that the South African government plans to build at least 43 hospitals and 213 clinics over the next five years, this is also in line with the implementation of the NHI. Motsoaledi emphasised the improvements that the health department had sort over the past years. “According to Stats SA, the number of people who go directly to clinics had increased from 44.5% in 2004 to 55.6% in 2012,” said Motsoaledi. The Department of Health will also re-equip and refurbish 870 clinics in the 11 NHI pilot districts which are in all of the nine provinces.
The introduction of the new HPV virus has amounted for about R600 million from the 2014 budget. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer among women, many of whom are in the productive years of their lives. The HPV vaccine prevents cancer of the cervix and will be introduced into the national immunization schedule this year. The vaccine will start with grade 4 learners across the country this year.
There are many factors of concern in the South African health system such as HIV as well as TB but the implementation of the NHI will, if successful, ensure that access to good quality treatment is not limited by finance because good health leads to social and economic comfort which will reflect on the mortality rate.