South Africa’s public health system is a countrywide network of care facilities ranging from mobile and rural clinics to huge academic hospitals in the urban centres.
Fundamentally, public health focuses on improving and protecting community health and well-being, with an emphasis on prevention amongst large groups of people. Those with public health degrees keep communities healthy through child wellness, disease prevention, education, disaster relief, clean water, access to healthcare, and much more.
The Department of Health (DoH) derives its mandate from the National Health Act of 2003, which requires that the department provides a framework for a structured and uniform health system for South Africa.
The Act sets out the responsibilities of the three levels of government in the provision of health services (South African Government: www.gov.za).
Preventing and treating communicable and non-communicable diseases
The most important function of public health is the prevention of diseases and disability. Combating HIV and AIDS remains a priority of the government. The department is committed to the 90/90/90 targets of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS: ensuring that 90% of people living with HIV are diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed are initiated on antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of those initiated on treatment have suppressed viral loads.
The department is expected to increase the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment from 4.3 million in October 2018 to seven million in 2021/22, and to fund HIV prevention interventions such as HIV counselling and testing, condom distribution and medical male circumcision. TB is the leading underlying cause of death in South Africa and the government aims to coordinate national interventions against this disease by improving its detection, treatment coverage and treatment success rate. The department aims to eliminate malaria in South Africa by 2023/24 by scaling up cost-effective interventions for malaria prevention, surveillance, diagnosis and treatment.
In June 2019, the government launched the Human Rights Plan, which has a clear roadmap on how to address human rights violations for people infected and affected by HIV and TB, and for vulnerable and marginalised populations.
The latest coronavirus updates from South Africa and around the world in real time.
In tracking the spread and severity of the 2019/2020 coronavirus outbreak – officially referred to as COVID-19 – which has already led to global concern, we aim to keep the public informed and up to date with major consequences of the pandemic. Internationally recognised as a public health emergency, the first positive cases of the novel coronavirus were recorded in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Since then, the virus has forced international travel bans, school closures, curfews and quarantine measures which have decimated global financial markets.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified symptoms of the coronavirus to include a fever, cough and breathing difficulties. Severe symptoms include pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure.
Thorough and consistent personal hygiene has been highlighted as the primary preventative measure. The WHO has recommended regular hand washing in conjunction with covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
The coronavirus mortality rate has been estimated at 3.4% – with persons suffering from pre-existing conditions, particularly auto-immune deficiencies, most likely to succumb to the illness.
Latest coronavirus updates, Monday 30 March 2020
• Confirmed coronavirus cases: 722 350
• Confirmed deaths: 33,980
• Confirmed recoveries: 151,766
• Confirmed cases in 199 countries and territories
In South Africa
• Confirmed coronavirus cases: 1 280
• Confirmed deaths: 2