Wellness Mobile Initiative Improves Access to Healthcare
The Western Cape Government (WCG) continues to deliver on healthcare and improved quality education by reducing barriers to health access through the School Health Wellness Mobile initiative. This initiative, part of the National Integrated School Health Policy, focuses specifically on early detection of health problems.
Excited Grade R and Grade 1 learners at Heideveld Primary School in Athlone were visited by one of these Wellness Mobiles for the first time this week. The unit was accompanied by a primary health school nurse, an optometrist and a dental team providing various health screenings and examinations.
The visit formed part of an event celebrating the partnership between WCG, Liberty Medical Scheme and The Health Foundation in support of improving access to healthcare to underprivileged schools in the rural and metro areas. A group of learners also joined in at the event by taking part in an activity which focused on movements that develop fine and gross motor skills.
“We are proud of the impact that our School Health Wellness Mobile initiative has had on providing access to healthcare for Grade R and Grade 1 learners in the province. Early detection of health problems can significantly impact on learners educational experiences, so investment in these mobiles is much bigger than just the health care,” Western Cape Department of Education Minister, Debbie Schäfer said.
“Our health workers are doing a wonderful job in screening learners at the schools and we are finding that the most common problems that are picked up are impaired vision and dental problems,” Western Cape Department of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo said.
The Western Cape Government has committed R24 million per annum to five state-of-the-art Wellness Mobiles, three of which are operational in the rural districts and two in the metro area of the Province. The Department of Health has budgeted R11.5 million per annum for staffing, fuel and consumables, while the Department of Education has allocated R12.5 million per annum towards the cost of leasing the mobile service.
The initiative was launched in 2014 between the Western Cape Departments of Health and Education, in line with the Western Cape Government’s strategic objectives of increasing wellness and improving education outcomes. Collectively, these mobiles have visited 358 schools and rendered healthcare services to 37 750 learners, of which 4067 received spectacles and 10 891 received dental care.
“These screenings and subsequent referrals can make a significant difference to the school careers and lives of the learners,” said Liberty Medical Scheme Board Member, Dr Peter Hill. “Besides addressing health concerns, the tests also pick up if the children have any issues that may impact their performance at school, such as a problem with their eyesight or hearing. The power lies in early detection and the fact that, often, these concerns can be easily addressed with a pair of glasses, hearing aids or specialised care.”
Typical school health screenings include:
• Vision and hearing,
• Ear, eye and skin examinations,
• Testing of gross and fine motor skills and speech,
• Immunisation, deworming and tuberculosis screening,
• Oral health care.
“Healthy children are a foundation for a healthy society and future economy,” Jenni van Niekerk, CEO of the Health Foundation, an independent non-profit company that facilitates partnerships with WCG and acts as a credible conduit for funds that can contribute to the health of the province said.
Minister Mbombo added, “Our collaboration with Liberty Medical Scheme demonstrates the impact that the private sector can have on public sector initiatives – by working “Better Together”, we can ensure that our projects have longevity and the reach needed to ensure a healthier society.” She invited members of the private sector to partner with the Department in support of this programme.
The Western Cape Government is committed to ensuring that as many learners as possible benefit from this programme. For additional information, contact The Health Foundation on +27 (0) 21 418 1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spokesperson for the Minister of Health, Nomafrench Mbombo
Tel: 021 483 5862 / 079 546 9518
Spokesperson for the Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer
Western Cape Education Department
Tel: 021 467 2376 / 076 175 0663