Dr Tshepo Motsepe. Kopano Tlape GCIS
Dr Tshepo Motsepe. Kopano Tlape GCIS

Children must be at heart of SA's health system

By GOITSEMANG TLHABYE Time of article published Dec 12, 2019

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Pretoria - One in every 31 children in South Africa will die before they reach their 5th birthday if the country fails to heed the call to put children and adolescents at the heart of the country’s healthcare system.

This emerged from the 14th annual South African Child Gauge 2019, released under the theme “Child and Adolescent Health: Leave no one behind”.

The report noted that the country had made huge strides in reducing mortality and deaths due to HIV among children under 5 years - from 79 in 1000 to 32 deaths per 1000 in 2017.

However, much more had to be done to ensure the remaining children who survive are able to thrive and reach their full potential.

Yet children are still dying due to preventable diseases such as neonatal conditions, diarrhoea, pneumonia, HIV and injuries.

The report highlights three key areas of focus - mainly intervening early, intervening outside the clinic and intervening in policy.

For early intervention, First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe, contributor to the report, said the key was in starting during the first 1000 days of a child’s life and continuing well into adolescence.

“If we want to promote cognitive development, we need to break the intergenerational cycles of poverty and violence. We must halt the growing epidemic of obesity and non-communicable diseases by investing early.

“We have to recognise that health professionals have a responsibility for child health that extends beyond the walls of their clinic or hospital,” added Motsepe. She said professionals had to know where children came from, who they lived with and the challenges they faced.

Motsepe said this would enable them to put care plans in place that build on existing strengths to promote and safeguard children’s health.

“There is an urgent need to look beyond individual behaviour and address some of the social and structural determinants of child health.”

With the country having failed to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets for reducing maternal and child mortality, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said no one could any longer be able to “take our eyes off the ball”, especially with regards to the Sustainable Development Goal targets.

“The National Health Insurance provides an opportunity to improve long-term care for children but only if the proposed basket of care includes children with long-term health conditions and rehabilitation services. For now, this edition is an important role in monitoring progress, identifying gaps and suggesting remedial actions.”

Pretoria News

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