Millions of young people own smartphones which enable them to access information and connect with others and learn.
It’s the potency of the tools at their disposal which two young forward-thinking medical doctors want to harness to bring about change in the health sector.
For 30-year-old Dr Sivuyile Madikana, social media is one of the tools that will help drive his passion for a change in public health care in Africa.
He is working on an app that will “revolutionise” the way public health care is delivered on the continent and he hopes to launch it within the next eight months.
“We are dealing with complex issues such as gender-based violence and we need to use social media to help fight this. It’s time to use social media to advance us instead of trivial things,” Madikana said.
Currently, he owns and manages a health initiative, #VarsityConvos, whose target audience is students at institutions of higher learning.
The initiative was started last year and uses both digital media and live discussions to facilitate dialogues about health issues, specifically HIV/Aids, social justice and other issues affecting students.
In 2016, Madikana was chosen as an ambassador for the Brothers For Life (BFL) campaign, which promotes HIV/Aids awareness for positive health norms in young men.
He used social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, to create a platform for discussion and believes these have helped change health behaviour in young people.
Madikana lives in New York, in the US, where he is a master of public health (MPH) candidate at New York University, specialising in health-care management and policy. He has also worked for the UN, doing research on how digital technology can be used to advance the agenda for gender equality and health of adolescent girls and young women.
“My focus is on how to shape public health policies to enable us to be at the cutting-edge of the provision of health care to a wider reach. Developing nations need to come up with forward-thinking solutions.
“I’ve used social media to engage with young people and to make awareness on health issues, communicable diseases and lifestyle related ones,” he said.
Madikana said health needed to be looked at in a holistic way and access to health care was a universal right.
Already his studies in New York have exposed to him to a lot of advances in the US which he hoped Africa could emulate.
“Digital health care in the public sector will play a very important role.
“We need systems to help us improve health care.
“South Africa wants to improve access to public health care, as evidenced by the proposed National Health Insurance, but we need to set things in place,” he said.
However, Madikana said he would not wait for the government and business before he could make a difference.
“My philosophy in life is just do it and people will catch on to it.
“Do what you need to do and some people will work with you towards the goal,” he added.
In two months, former Miss South Africa and medical doctor Adè van Heerden will launch a technology project that will create a buzz in lifestyle medicine.
“I don’t want to share much about it now, but I regard social media as a leadership tool,” she said, while trying hard to suppress the excitement.
Van Heerden currently shares medical information with millions through a TV breakfast show, where people get an opportunity to ask her medical-related questions.
“I feel that I am obligated to educate people on health issues and I am passionate about young girls,” she explained.
She plans to use social media as a “safe space” to encourage young people to talk about issues that they would not ordinarily ask parents and to inspire them to dream big”.
Van Heerden, 27, has just passed on the title of Miss South Africa to her successor, Tamryn Green, but she counts her main achievements as the ability to change lives and shape minds.
“The greater purpose is how do I serve my country?
“Most people regarded as role models by young girls like to share on social media platforms their glamorous lifestyles.
“But I want to use social media to share knowledge and connect with people.”
Van Heerden is also an army lieutenant, a rank she earned while working at the Second Military hospital after qualifying as a doctor in 2015.
“I don’t work on projects just to add yet another achievement to a list.
“The youth, especially young girls and women, are close to my heart so I work on empowering and inspiring them,” added Van Heerden.
We wait with bated breath for the new project.