Health sys­tem: best ECD boost

Pol­icy, ser­vice de­liv­ery foot­print is in place, write and

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

an ex­am­ple.

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.

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