Professor Heather Zar Photo: Supplied
Professor Heather Zar is currently the chair of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at UCT, and her work with TB, pneumonia, asthma and HIV/Aids-related lung disease has contributed to changing global and World Health Organisation guidelines.

A leading international expert in these areas, she has published over 300 scientific articles and been given the highest rating, A-1, from the National Research Foundation.

“Child health is largely under-resourced despite children making up a third of the population in South Africa and more than 50% in some African countries.

"We know that child health sets the trajectory for adult health - so strengthening health for children is important, not only to ensure health for children but the passage to healthy adulthood,” Zar said.

She would like to see the development of stronger African networks in research, education and advocacy for child health and in lung health. Some of these networks have already been created, but there's still much work to do.

“For my specific work I'd like to secure sufficient grant funding for us to extend our unique African birth cohort study, the Drakenstein Child Health study of 1 000 mother- child pairs, until the children are through adolescence - this is such a unique opportunity to better understand what factors (from pregnancy through childhood) enable a child and adult to reach their full potential and to identify new ways to do this.”

Dr Roux Martinez

At the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, a child with burns on over 40% of their body has an 80%-90% chance of survival, where elsewhere in the country their chances are very slim.

This is a major concern for Dr Roux Martinez, medical officer of the only specialised paediatric burns unit in Africa, and she believes that the pioneering work done by Professor Heinz Rode and the level of intensive care in the hospital can be emulated elsewhere in the country to save more precious children’s lives.

Martinez admits to balancing her work-life and family rather poorly. An ill child will always win. As burn care is a 24-hour-a-day commitment, sacrifices are part of the deal. She intends to write a book on the practical aspects of paediatric burn care.

“Children display all the best aspects of being human. Instead of the adult response of 'why me; why now?' they accept their injuries with courage, optimism and a fervent urgency to get better. A miracle you can never grow tired of,” she said.

“As one person, I cannot change all health care but I can do miracles for one child at a time. The Children's Hospital Trust has shown us for many years that, by bringing together willing and kind individuals, thousands of children from the poorest communities can receive the best burn care possible - burn care that saves lives,” she added.

Dr Anita Parbhoo was drawn to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital 10 years ago.

Her position at the hospital as manager for medical services is demanding but Parbhoo is committed to providing a quality service for ill children and their families.

Parbhoo believes that, as the hospital is a dedicated paediatric hospital with an excellent reputation, the clinicians who are drawn to work there generally have a special quality about them.

Parbhoo also believes that South Africa needs to have a comprehensive healthcare approach which focuses on strengthening healthcare by starting with health promotion to prevent the onset of non-communicable diseases.

“We then need to carry this throughout the pathway from primary healthcare facilities right through to tertiary/quaternary services.”

She firmly believes this is possible and that it also needs to be managed in such a way that indigent patients are not left destitute after incurring out-of-pocket medical expenses.

“Some ways to strengthen healthcare systems are by involving our communities; by partnering with different organisations; and coming up with innovative solutions. The Children’s Hospital Trust has enabled many partnerships that have allowed this hospital’s infrastructure to keep up to international standards, and sometimes leading the field.

“Hope and goodwill from the community have contributed to us being able to provide an excellent service for our patients.”

She is constantly juggling her busy schedule at work and at home, with two children as well as a husband, who is also a doctor.

Despite this, Parbhoo has embarked on a Master’s in Public Health through the School of Public Health at UWC.

Noluyolo (Yolie) Ngomani is the senior content producer at RX Radio, the first radio station globally that is run by children for children in hospital.

The station produces live and pre-recorded footage that is streamed online as well as shown on TVs at the beds of the children in the hospital.

Ngomani has a Master’s Degree in Media Theory and Practice from UCT.

“The most beautiful thing is witnessing the use of the medium to empower and give voice to children and young people whose voices did not previously carry as much weight, as they spoke as individuals and not through the mic now they stand as a collective and are using the medium for sharing their personal experiences,” she said.

Ngomani believes that healthcare in South Africa, especially quality healthcare, is becoming more and more unobtainable for struggling people, who are the ones who need it the most.

This affects the young people she works with, she says, as some of them were misdiagnosed at some point or the facilities were inadequate before coming to Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

For some patients, this has led to irreversible damage.

This initiative gives them a chance to interact, exchange ideas, deal with fears and be hopeful.

"We recently lost one of our reporters, but looking at her radio diary and her interactions with her peers, I am very happy that there was a platform that afforded her a chance to be part of a group and, for a moment, engage in talking about something besides her illness.

"It’s a way to make the young people know that they are not alone, and they are not their illnesses, but young people with stories and aspirations just like other young people.” - Staff Writer