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Motsoaledi looks to vaccines to strengthen public health system

Written by SA Government News.

Cape Town Parliament. 5 May 2015
Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, says government needs to change its budget strategy to strengthen the public health system if the country, along with other African states, are to take the continent forward. The Minister said the strategy would also include prioritising the prevention of disease and promoting health to ensure that people get good quality health care.
The Minister said this when tabling his department’s Budget Vote in Parliament on Tuesday.
He said the need for stronger public health systems was crucial as it would enhance the ability for the health sector to prevent and manage disease outbreaks like Ebola, Meningitis, Tuberculosis, HIV and Aids and Polio, for example.
It was for this reason that at a recent World Health Organisation conference in Benin, Ministers of health took a decision that instead of having vertical programmes – separate budgets to fight Malaria, Polio, HIV Aids, TB, among others – governments should invest in strengthening public health systems.
“We believe that what will help Africa are strong health systems which in turn will withstand whichever outbreak emerges because … we actually do not know what will follow next.
“Yesterday it was HIV and Aids, today it is Ebola and TB and tomorrow is what?
“We do not know but we believe that some other outbreak is unfortunately in the pipeline …”
He said the outbreak of diseases that he referred to could be caused by climate change, an increasing encroachment of humankind in the habitat of other species in search of food, water and shelter, as well as the ever increasing emergence of the post antibiotic era.
The Minister said during the 2014/15 financial year, his department has been busy putting up plans to strengthen the public health system.
“This will include preventing disease, promoting health and making sure that our people get good quality health care.
“This is our mandate and this we shall pursue with vigour.
“This does not mean vertical programmes are to be abandoned.
“It simple means that strengthening health care systems will be our flagship while vertical programmes will be supportive,” he said.
Prevention is better than cure
Minister Motsoaledi said curing diseases is usually regarded as a scientific achievement, while prevention is not given the same stature.
He said this was the reason why in the public health sector, any negative event that happened was immediately regarded as a collapse of the health system.
“No matter what detractors will say, we shall not abandon or weaken the preventative aspect of the health system, on the contrary it is going to be the foundation of our programme of health system strengthening,” he said.
To pursue the goal of prevention, the department of health introduced new vaccines in 2009 in its routine immunisation programme, including the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and the rotavirus vaccine.
Pneumococcal diseases like meningitis and severe pneumonia are regarded as very dangerous and that in South Africa and around the world, and is the number two killer after HIV and Aids to children under the age of five.
The Minister said prevention vaccines have led to the department decreasing these diseases by 70%.
“Sadly in today’s public narrative, it may count for nothing. What would have counted is if I were to announce that we allowed children to have pneumonia and meningitis and successfully treated all of them.
“That type of announcement would have found resonance with major sections of the media and some politicians.
“That I am announcing today that we actually prevented 70% of children from ever catching the deadly pneumococcal disease may mean nothing to people with this perverse narrative of ‘cure is better than prevention’ rather than the age old adage of ‘prevention is better than cure’,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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