Health system: best ECD boost
Policy, service delivery footprint is in place, write and
Vision impairment in the early years of a child’s life comes at an enormous cost – for the child and the country’s development.
Almost all of children’s early development depends on their vision. If they cannot see, their development and learning will, without early identification and appropriate support, be severely compromised.
The major health systemsstrengthening initiatives that are taking place must be revisited through the early child development lens. Early child development, and not just survival, should be at the centre. The public health system should be re-engineered to ensure the delivery of all essential ECD services through the public health system.
The shifts that should take place within the health system are clear. Achieving them is a more complex task. It requires leadership within the health sector, and at the highest levels of government.
To ensure ECD is a priority it should be included in the service delivery agreement between the Presidency and the Minister of Health. Parliament too should be more vocal in profiling and monitoring ECD through the health system.
Civil society is an equally important leader. It has moved to play this role more effectively by establishing a child development working group within the South African Civil Society for Women’s, Adolescent and Children’s Health (SACSoWACH). This is a national coalition for co-ordinating civil society’s advocacy for more effective women, children’s and adolescent health and development systems.
Martin (Orbis Africa) and Slemming (Division of Community Paediatrics, University of the Witwatersrand) write in their capacity as members of SACSoWACH.