Motsoaledi outlines integrated health school plan

Durban: Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has launched an integrated health school policy in partnership with the Departments of Basic Education and Social Development to deal head-on with health problems confronting school-going youth.

Motsoaledi said it was a constitutional imperative to provide health care to all children, even those out of the school system. “We want all vulnerable children to develop their full potential.”

He was speaking at the opening of the South African Conference on Orphans, Children and Youth made vulnerable by HIV and Aids, which included the launch of Child Protection Week and Pledge, held at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.

“We have launched an integrated health school policy whose objectives will be achieved by means of the following key strategies: health promotion and health education; provision of an essential package of health services in schools; coordination and partnership; capacity building and community participation.”

The minister said the focus of the programme was on nutrition and exercise; personal and environmental hygiene; chronic illnesses (including HIV and TB); abuse (sexual, physical and emotional abuse, including bullying and violence); sexual and reproductive health; menstruation, contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) ,including HIV/Aids and male circumcision, including male medical circumcision (MMC).

All school-going children will undergo health check-ups at schools to deal with barriers to learning, these will include eye screening, immunisation, HIV/Aids testing, TB screening, nutritional and oral hygiene education.

“We commit to increase life expectancy, decrease maternal and child mortality, combat HIV and Aids and decrease the burden of disease from TB, and strengthen health system effectiveness,” Motsoaledi said. All these measures were part of the “health revolution known as the National Health Insurance (NHI)”, he added.

Challenges facing school children

The minister said there were two enemies to good health, namely malnutrition and obesity. “According to recent statistics, 23 percent of school-going children are considered overweight or obese,” he said.

He blamed this problem on the mushrooming of fast-food outlets in South Africa. He also spoke strongly against the phenomenon of sugar daddies, backstreet abortion, teen pregnancies, smoking and alcohol use.

“I have no knowledge of responsible alcohol use. If you buy a bottle of alcohol, you must finish it. Smoking has never contributed anything to human development except diseases and death,” he said.

He revealed that some one million women fall pregnant in this country every year. Of these, 18 percent are teenagers. Unfortunately, 36 percent of them (teenagers) die during childbirth. On sugar daddies and backstreet abortions, he urged the youth to desist from these harmful practices.

“There is no quick backstreet abortion. It does not exist. If you follow that route, it leads to death. Say no backstreet abortion and sugar daddies,” he warned.

Vaccination programme

He also announced that in 2014, a new vaccine to deal with cervical cancer will be launched. This vaccination programme will at first target nine to 10-year-old girls. He revealed that at least 6 000 women get cervix cancer every year; of these 80 percent are African. Unfortunately, some 3 000 succumb to the disease, despite the best medical care available.