The disturbing high infant mortality rate in South Africa is highlighted through awareness campaigns such as Pregnancy Week, held from 12 – 18 February this year.
According to latest statistics published by the United Nations Statistics Division South Africa’s infant mortality rate is 43.2 deaths for every 1 000 live births which is noticeably higher than the rate of other countries with similar developing economies (e.g. Mexico and Brazil). These figures are alarming and bring into focus the need for all healthcare professionals to play a collaborative role in addressing this problem.
“Infant mortality must be a high priority not only for the Department of Health but also the healthcare industry. The pharmacy industry believes that one must look at the pregnant mother receiving antenatal care as soon as she realises that she is pregnant, certainly within her first trimester,” says Sham Moodley, ICPA Chairperson. “This presents an opportunity for the mother to exclude and manage existing medical conditions which can be aggravated by pregnancy (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, infections, anaemia, etc.).”
Sham also points out that some of the main causes of infants dying within their first year are malnutrition and HIV/Aids. Antenatal healthcare is about more than just the mother’s well-being. It’s also about providing her with knowledge and assistance so that she can deliver a healthy baby that survives the difficult first year. This can be achieved through:
- Free HIV/Aids testing and voluntary counselling
- Early recognition of danger signs in the pregnancy and post-delivery
- Self-care advice regarding nutrition and a high standard of hygiene
With its extensive footprint and number of clinics, ICPA’s members (all independent, community-based pharmacies) offer the pregnant mother the level of healthcare needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby. She has easy access to the expertise of the pharmacist, their assistants and the clinic nurse.
“It’s not just about the antenatal healthcare on offer, the mother-to-be receives nutritional advice and products in an environment she trusts and within which she feels welcome. We recognise the role of pharmacy and clinic services in South Africa and we in ICPA believe we can play a defining role in helping South Africa to manage the infant mortality rate.” says Sham.
During Pregnancy Week the ICPA will also promote the role that its members play in primary healthcare initiatives, which include antenatal healthcare, provision of over-the-counter supplements, vitamins and most importantly the expertise of the pharmacist and their clinic staff.
Community charity drive
In order to highlight the issue of infant mortality during Pregnancy Week, participating ICPA members will be asking customers to donate prenatal and baby products of their choice, presenting the donations to those who need it most.
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