Health in South Africa: changes and challenges since 2009
ABSTRACT Since the 2009 Lancet Health in South Africa Series, important changes have occurred in the country, resulting in an increase in life expectancy to 60 years. Historical injustices together with the disastrous health policies of the previous administration are being transformed. The change in leadership of the Ministry of Health has been key, but new momentum is inhibited by stasis within the health management bureaucracy. Specific policy and programme changes are evident for all four of the so-called colliding epidemics: HIV and tuberculosis; chronic illness and mental health; injury and violence; and maternal, neonatal, and child health. South Africa now has the world's largest programme of antiretroviral therapy, and some advances have been made in implementation of new tuberculosis diagnostics and treatment scale-up and integration. HIV prevention has received increased attention. Child mortality has benefited from progress in addressing HIV. However, more attention to postnatal feeding support is needed. Many risk factors for non-communicable diseases have increased substantially during the past two decades, but an ambitious government policy to address lifestyle risks such as consumption of salt and alcohol provide real potential for change. Although mortality due to injuries seems to be decreasing, high levels of interpersonal violence and accidents persist. An integrated strategic framework for prevention of injury and violence is in progress but its successful implementation will need high-level commitment, support for evidence-led prevention interventions, investment in surveillance systems and research, and improved human-resources and management capacities. A radical system of national health insurance and re-engineering of primary health care will be phased in for 14 years to enable universal, equitable, and affordable health-care coverage. Finally, national consensus has been reached about seven priorities for health research with a commitment to increase the health research budget to 2·0% of national health spending. However, large racial differentials exist in social determinants of health, especially housing and sanitation for the poor and inequity between the sexes, although progress has been made in access to basic education, electricity, piped water, and social protection. Integration of the private and public sectors and of services for HIV, tuberculosis, and non-communicable diseases needs to improve, as do surveillance and information systems. Additionally, successful interventions need to be delivered widely. Transformation of the health system into a national institution that is based on equity and merit and is built on an effective human-resources system could still place South Africa on track to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4, 5, and 6 and would enhance the lives of its citizens.
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ABSTRACT: Escalation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among urban South African populations disproportionately afflicted by HIV/AIDS presents not only medical challenges but also new ways in which people understand and experience sickness. In Soweto, the psychological imprints of political violence of the Apartheid era and structural violence of HIV/AIDS have shaped social and health discourses. Yet, as NCDs increasingly become part of social and biomedical discussions in South African townships, new frames for elucidating sickness are emerging. This article employs the concept of syndemic suffering to critically examine how 27 women living with Type 2 diabetes in Soweto, a township adjacent to Johannesburg known for socio-economic mobility as well as inequality, experience and understand syndemic social and health problems. For example, women described how reconstructing families and raising grandchildren after losing children to AIDS was not only socially challenging but also affected how they ate, and how they accepted and managed their diabetes. Although previously diagnosed with diabetes, women illustrated how a myriad of social and health concerns shaped sickness. Many related diabetes treatment to shared AIDS nosologies, referring to diabetes as 'the same' or 'worse'. These narratives demonstrate how suffering weaves a social history where HIV becomes ordinary, and diabetes new.Global Public Health 02/2015; DOI:10.1080/17441692.2014.998698 · 0.92 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: To inform health care and training, resource and research priorities, it is essential to establish how non-communicable disease risk factors vary by HIV-status in high HIV burden areas; and whether long-term anti-retroviral therapy (ART) plays a modifying role. As part of a cohort initiation, we conducted a baseline HIV/cardiometabolic risk factor survey in 2010-2011 using an age-sex stratified random sample of ages 15+ in rural South Africa. We modelled cardiometabolic risk factors and their associations by HIV-status and self-reported ART status for ages 18+ using sex-stratified logistic regression models. Age-standardised HIV prevalence in women was 26% (95% CI 24-28%) and 19% (95% CI 17-21) in men. People with untreated HIV were less likely to have a high waist circumference in both women (OR 0.67; 95% CI 0.52-0.86) and men (OR 0.42; 95% CI 0.22-0.82). Untreated women were more likely to have low HDL and LDL, and treated women high triglycerides. Cardiometabolic risk factors increased with age except low HDL. The prevalence of hypertension was high (40% in women; 30% in men). Sub-Saharan Africa is facing intersecting epidemics of HIV and hypertension. In this setting, around half the adult population require long-term care for at least one of HIV, hypertension or diabetes. Together with the adverse effects that HIV and its treatment have on lipids, this may have serious implications for the South African health care system. Monitoring of the interaction of HIV, ART use, and cardiometabolic disease is needed at both individual and population levels.BMC Public Health 12/2015; 15(1). DOI:10.1186/s12889-015-1467-1 · 2.32 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Adolescents are an important age-group for preventing disease and supporting health yet little is known about their health-seeking behaviours. We describe socio-demographic characteristics and health-seeking behaviours of adolescents in Soweto, South Africa, in order to broaden our understanding of their health needs. The Botsha Bophelo Adolescent Health Study was an interviewer-administered cross-sectional survey of 830 adolescents (14-19 years) conducted in Soweto from 2010 to 2012. Health-seeking behaviours were defined as accessing medical services and/or being hospitalised in the 6 months prior to the survey. Chi-square analysis tested for associations between gender, other socio-demographic and behavioural characteristics, and health-seeking behaviours. Of 830 adolescents, 57% were female, 50% were aged 17-19 years, 85% were enrolled in school, and 78% reported experiencing medium or high food insecurity. Males were more likely than females to report sexual debut (64% vs. 49%; p<0.0001) and illicit drug use (11% vs. 3%; p<0.0001). Approximately 27% (n=224) and 8% (n=65) reported seeking healthcare or being hospitalised respectively in the previous 6 months, with no significant differences by gender. Services were most commonly sought at medical clinics (75%), predominantly because of flu-like symptoms (32%), followed by concerns about HIV (10%). Compared to females, males were more likely to seek healthcare for condom breakage (8% vs. 2%; p=0.02). Relative to males, a significantly higher proportion of females desired general healthcare services (85% vs. 78%; p=0.0091), counselling (82% vs. 70%; p<0.0001), and reproductive health services (64% vs. 56%; p=0.02). A quarter of male and female adolescents accessed health services in the 6 months prior to the interview. Adolescents reported a gap between the availability and the need for general, reproductive, and counselling services. Integrated adolescent-friendly, school-based health services are recommended to bridge this gap.Global Health Action 02/2015; 8:25670. DOI:10.3402/gha.v8.25670 · 1.65 Impact Factor