SA's 7 biggest health stories of 2017

There were many health news events in 2017.
There were many health news events in 2017.

From a health perspective, 2017 was an eventful year. There was good news, bad news and everything in between – as well as the anniversary of a medical breakthrough that changed the face of medicine.

Here are seven health news stories that hit the South African headlines in 2017:

1. Life Esidimeni

In 2016 the Gauteng Health Department forcibly removed psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni homes to a number of ill-equipped, unlicensed NGOs. Many of the patients died needlessly of pneumonia‚ starvation and neglect‚ according to health ombud Malegapuru Makgoba’s report. Arbitration hearings to get to the bottom of the tragedy started on 9 October.

2. Sugar tax 

South Africa's new sugar tax, was passed by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on 12 December. It is due to be implemented on 1 April 2018 and will see the price of a can of Coca Cola increase by around 11%. This means that the country is now "on the right path to reverse the alarming numbers of diabetes cases and other NCDs associated with obesity".

3. Tim Noakes exonerated

On Friday 21 April Professor Tim Noakes was found not guilty of misconduct by a professional conduct committee. Noakes had been charged with giving unconventional medical advice on Twitter in 2015 after he advised a breastfeeding mother to wean her baby onto LCHF (low-carb, high-fat). 

4. Commemoration of first heart transplant

Fifty years ago, on December 3, 1967, Professor Chris Barnard and his team transplanted the heart of 25-year-old Denise Darvall into Louis Washkansky. It was an operation that earned him international acclaim, but the world's first heart transplant also provoked hate mail and outspoken criticism. 

5. Plague in Madagascar

Following the outbreak of the plague in Madegascar, which started in August, South Africa was one of nine countries warned by the World Health Organization (WHO) to take precautionary measures against the disease. Eight people had died in two days of pneumonic plague on the Indian Ocean island, which is hit by deadly outbreaks almost every year.

6. Listeriosis outbreak

In December‚ Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced that more than 30 people had died following an outbreak of Listeriosis. Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the L. monocytogenes bacterium. Approximately 557 cases had been reported, with the majority from Gauteng province.

7. Glenda Gray on Time 100 list

In April the news magazine Time included a South African doctor, Prof Glenda Gray, in its annual list of the most influential people in the world. The magazine included her in the list based on her leadership role in finding a vaccine for HIV/Aids.

Image credit: iStock & Wikimedia Commons

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