Will Motsoaledi get us out of the poo?

Eina!

That esteemed British journal,The Lancet, has done a state-of-the-nation review of South Africa, and the picture it paints is not pretty. Turns out our homicide rate is five times the world’s average – except when you look at South Africa’s women, when our homicide rate rises to six times the world’s average. Half of those women are killed by their partner.

We’re letting the children down, too. For all our good intentions, the infant mortality rate has actually risen and – according to the Lancet figures – more than 200 children die every day, many within their first four weeks of life, many unnecessarily.

Every one of those deaths carries a burden of grief. If countries had auras, ours would have to be a bitter, dirty grey on the basis of these tragedies alone.

Our new health minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has also inherited dismal HIV statistics (0.7% of the world’s population, but 17% of the world’s HIV/Aids cases), bleak TB statistics (the incidence has doubled since 2001), and... but I don’t need to go on. Click here to read the full story.

Will the mooted National Health Insurance solve the problem? It seems a big task to me. But we like Motsoaledi’s attitude: this week saw the start of a fortnight-long door-to-door blitz vaccinating and giving immunity-boosting vitamins to children. On a national level, that’s the only way to solve the problem: one step at a time.

While Motsoaledi is chipping away at the mountain of need, what, on a personal level, should the rest of us be doing? Actively, consciously engaging with our health, that’s what. The real health victory lies in seldom or never needing to access hospitals and medical funds outside of routine screens. The more in the poo the country’s health status, the greater the reason to boost your own health and fitness. That’s Health24’s mission as summer begins: join us for the ride!

 (Heather Parker, Health24, September 2009)

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