South Africa’s deputy health minister says the government Friday will launch an initiative aimed at improving the health conditions of children and pregnant mothers.
Doctor Gwen Malegwale Ramokgopa said the administration is also working closely with other African countries to prioritize quality healthcare delivery to their citizens.
She said the government continues to demonstrate the political will towards improving the health conditions of all South Africans.
“We are sparing no effort to ensure that the well-being of South Africans indeed improves significantly. We are building on the achievements of the past years and we have prioritized four areas [and] the improvement of the health system effectiveness,” said Ramokgopa.
“The reduction of maternal and child mortality and morbidity as well as the reduction of HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics…we are doing these to improve the live expectancies of South Africans so that all have a long and healthy life.”
Ramokgopa said there has been a sharp increase in quality healthcare since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
Since the advent of democracy 19 years ago, she said, the country has increased the number of clinics by 40 percent. “We have empirical evidence that indeed the efforts that we have made have yielded results,” said Ramokgopa.
“The issue of malaria elimination, the issues of great reduction in terms of severe malnutrition for children who used to be dying of Kwashiorkor and Marasmus, we don’t see those types of illnesses anymore, amongst children.”
Ramokgopa, however acknowledged that South Africa faces the challenge of HIV and TB, which she said negatively impacts maternal and child health. She said the ministry of health makes concerted efforts to combat those diseases.
“We have put in policies, we have put in regulations and we continue to work with researchers as well as looking at technology to fast-track our gains,” Ramokgopa said.
“Over the past 18 months, we have been able to reduce the transmission of mother to child of HIV by 50 percent. We have also been able to increase the number of those that are on the anti-retrovirals quite significantly, more than double the numbers.”
According to South African officials, a majority of healthcare professionals, especially doctors, work in the private sector. This, they said, means quality healthcare can be out of the reach of the poor.
Deputy health minister Ramokgopa said the government is working to ensure equitable access to good healthcare.
“[An] official discussion paper, the green paper, [which] has already been publicized, has committed itself to ensure that we have a single integrated system. Meaning that the health workers of the country will serve the population, regardless of whether they can afford or not afford [it].”
She said the government’s policies are having a positive impact on the health status of South Africans.
“The death rates are coming down after they have stubbornly increased over the past few years, they have started to plummet,” said Ramokgopa.
“People are getting healthier and the economy is getting more productive as people get less sick and indeed the lives of South Africans [are] getting better.”
Ramokgopa was the keynote speaker at the just-ended Council on Health Research and Development Group (COHRED) 2012 forum in Cape Town. The conference, among other topics, focused on research and innovation as key drivers of health, equity and development.