Updated 22 August 2014

More underprivileged SA families to receive healthcare at home

The fight for the health and wellbeing of South Africans will be taken into the homes of the neediest individuals and families with the newest Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) initiatives.

The newest member of the Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa (CDIA) is Professor Jannie Hugo, Head of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pretoria (UP).

Changing focus to communities

He is a passionate advocate for Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) – a proven approach to primary care which sees healthcare brought proactively to families and individuals where they live, work and play.

“Our current healthcare system focuses too much on the swamped hospitals and clinics where doctors and nurses are struggling to keep people from dying. We need to move our efforts to where the epidemics (like tuberculosis (TB), HIV, diabetes and hypertension) are, in communities, where people are at risk and may unknowingly be spreading diseases and getting infected,” says Professor Hugo.

Read: Poor services also at private hospitals

In 2013 Professor Hugo and his team won the Council of Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa’s first ever “National Excellence in Teaching Award” for their innovative platform to serve the educational needs of undergraduate and postgraduate medical and clinical associate students, while at the same time providing excellent primary healthcare, training community workers through peer learning and improving the lives of thousands of people.

Proof that COPC works

The programme was piloted in 8 municipal wards in Tshwane between 2011 and 2013 and it was found that up to half the people with presumed TB and almost half of those diagnosed with TB were not in contact with health departments or authorities and didn’t even know about health facilities in their area.

COPC changed this by appointing team leaders and community healthcare workers who followed up, sent people for testing and started those in need on TB medication as well as organised family screening, significantly changing the model of care for these communities.

“For us, COPC is not a programme but a revolution in the paradigm of health service delivery. It is something different and we are proud and excited to be part of it,” says Professor Hugo.

“This revolution is about placing ourselves in the communities. If we work with community health workers and ordinary individuals and families, we can break the stranglehold of disease together,” he said.

Read: Hospital crisis: managers the solution

Working with the CDIA will be hugely beneficial.

“The CDIA has done much work in communities, at clinics and health centres, and with our experience with COPC, particularly in the practice of setting up and operating at community level and in family homes, we can help set up a comprehensive plan for reaching and helping more people in need.”

“If we were able to put all our resources and common knowledge into one system, that could be very powerful,” says Professor Hugo.

He was present at a recent high-level meeting in Pretoria, also attended by CDIA Director Professor Naomi Levitt and other healthcare stakeholders to discuss combining approaches and synergising efforts to better address chronic disease management.

The CDIA has done a significant amount of work at community level, especially in the field of primary healthcare and providing models of care and guidelines for community workers.

Read: Women left out of health care

“We need more partnerships and more collaboration across all sectors of our healthcare system to change the picture of disease in South Africa. We are delighted to be working with Professor Jannie Hugo and the University of Pretoria,” says Professor Levitt.

“I believe it will help us to reach more people and significantly change our approach to primary care and chronic diseases in this country,” she says.  

Read more:
List of chronic diseases
Private health care must become cheaper
How to save for medical emergencies

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