A community health worker vistits a family in Nkangala. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
A community health worker vistits a family in Nkangala. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
Medtronic SA managing director Peter Mehlape and Dimela Health CEO Ruwaida Sahik. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
Medtronic SA managing director Peter Mehlape and Dimela Health CEO Ruwaida Sahik. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
Mogeru Mogewane, chief director: Johannesburg Metro Health District and presently acting chief director: District Health Services for the Gauteng Department of Health delivers the opening address. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
Mogeru Mogewane, chief director: Johannesburg Metro Health District and presently acting chief director: District Health Services for the Gauteng Department of Health delivers the opening address. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
The MC Thuli Magubane talks about the impact of Project Nomzamo to date. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
The MC Thuli Magubane talks about the impact of Project Nomzamo to date. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
The Role of Community Health Workers in South Africa. Lindiwe Madikizela, NDOH's Peter Mehlape, MD Medtronic SA Belinda Ngongo, Senior Technical Advisor Medtronic Foundation Ruwaida Shaikh, Founder of Project Nomzamo, CEO of Dimela in a panel discussion. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe
The Role of Community Health Workers in South Africa. Lindiwe Madikizela, NDOH's Peter Mehlape, MD Medtronic SA Belinda Ngongo, Senior Technical Advisor Medtronic Foundation Ruwaida Shaikh, Founder of Project Nomzamo, CEO of Dimela in a panel discussion. Photo: Supplied/Thabo Nyembe

JOHANNESBURG – Project Nomzamo launched on Friday with the aim of training 1 700 unemployed youth and providing them with employment as community healthcare workers. 

In doing so it addresses two of South Africa’s biggest challenges: healthcare and employment. 

Founded by Ruwaida Shaikh, chief executive of Dimela Health and backed by global medical device company Medtronic, the project aims to actively support the National Department of Health’s (NDOH) efforts in primary healthcare re-engineering, a fundamental component of National Health Insurance, and increasing access to healthcare for all South Africans.

The project is also aligned with the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative and will facilitate the employment of community health workers (CHWs) through private sector business participation.

Candidates for the programme will all be drawn from the Nkangala District in Mpumalanga, an area identified by the National Department of Health as needing high priority interventions. The CHW training and skills development programme will be based on a standardised NDOH curriculum across all provinces. 

Upon training completion, each CHW will be equipped to provide general health education and disease awareness, disease screening and prevention, community-to-facility referrals, linkage to care and adherence support. 

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They will also be provided with the necessary soft skills to ensure that they can assist community members to focus on health promotion and disease prevention and curative treatment. 

More than 400 000 families will receive increased access to quality comprehensive healthcare services, and 150 government health facilities will receive a much-needed personnel boost over the course of the programme.

The initial stages of the programme are already bearing positive results.

“We’ve already educated more 25 000 individuals on healthy eating, on nutrition, on physical activity as well as preventative care,” said Shaikh. “We’ve educated more than 15 000 people on HIV testing, on signs and symptoms, and also encourage them to go for testing.”

“At the same time, we’re addressing youth unemployment, one of the biggest challenges facing South Africa today,” she said. “As citizens, we can either bemoan that challenge or do everything in our power to address it. Our hope is that Project Nomzamo is part of a groundswell of initiatives aimed at getting young people into work.”

If that is to be the case, those initiatives need the kind of sustained backing Project Nomzamo has from Medtronic.

“Medtronic’s interest in Project Nomzamo is all about increasing access to healthcare and also doing our bit in terms of transforming healthcare in a way that has never been done before,” said Peter Mehlape, Managing Director of Medtronic South Africa. “Project Nomzamo will open doors for young people and increase access to care and support for patients in vulnerable communities. Today, people don’t always get the support that they need in the community. Project Nomzamo has the ability to reach people in their homes and provide them with tailored support.”

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For its part, YES believes that Project Nomzamo is exactly the kind of initiative it is trying to promote.

“When it comes to providing job opportunities to young South Africans, the most important place to start is with the challenges ordinary South Africans face on a daily basis,” says Dr Tahima Ishmael, chief executive of YES. “We salute Project Nomzamo and its backers for providing such a meaningful intervention in the healthcare space.”

Government also supports Project Nomzamo, with Chief Director in the Gauteng Department of Health Mogeru Morewane describing it as a great example of “private sector and government collaboration bringing together people who understand the landscape and local South African problems to create long-lasting solutions.”

The project has a number of clearly defined goals which will be tracked and measured over the course of the initial three-year programme.

“We recognised that if Project Nomzamo is to be sustainable, donors need to see that their efforts are bearing fruit,” concludes Shaikh. “We want the project to succeed across its lifespan and hope that it will provide a model for others looking to make an impact in the youth employment space.”

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