Mass Campaign to Screen Children under Six Years in the Western Cape
The Department of Health is embarking on a three-month campaign as part of the Child Health Season, which stretches from April to June 2011. Health teams consisting of nurses, primary healthcare managers, community health workers, dieticians, oral hygienists and health promoters will visit crèches and early development centres (daycare centres) to assess all children under six years. Children will be screened for the following: nutrition, immunisation, vitamin A, deworming, oral health and referred should they require further intervention. Parents/guardians need to read, sign and return the consent form that they receive, together with the child's Road to Health/Clinic Card, so that health workers may assess and, if necessary, immunise their children.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: "considering that the leading causes of child death are mostly avoidable, it is time to take a hard look at ourselves and ask whether we are acting responsibly when it comes to our health and the health of our children".
"The South African Child Gauge 2009/2010 released by the Children's Institute and the University of Cape Town reveals that child deaths in children younger than five has increased from 56 per 1 000 live births in 1990 to 67 per 1 000 live births in 2008. More than 80% of all childhood deaths in this country are in this age group."
"While figures in the Western Cape are slightly better than other parts of the country, it is still unacceptable that we lose so many of our children at this age."
"The Department of Health offers parents the opportunities to protect their children against disease. Parents and child carers need to seize the opportunity and practise basic principles for physical and mental health: wash your hands, eat healthily and get your children immunised."
The Child Health Season will take the form of active case finding, screening and interventions to improve the immunisation and nutritional status of the child which include administering of catch-up vaccines such as Pneumococcal, Rotavirus, Measles, Pentavalent, Hepatitis B, Tetanus and Diftavax (Td vaccine), administering vitamin A and deworming medication. An oral health check will also be done. The campaign allows for a set period, which focuses specifically on child health issues such as improving immunisation and vitamin A coverage amongst children six years and younger as well as the benefits and importance of nutrition, deworming and regular oral health and clinic visits.
Immunisation remains the safest and most cost-effective way to ensure protection from childhood illnesses. The more children that are vaccinated correctly, the more protection is offered to other children, creating communities of children that are protected against illness. It is necessary to have 100% of children immunised to eradicate an illness, so that immunisation is no longer necessary. Child immunisation also offers protection to adults; when childhood illnesses such as measles are contracted by adults, the illness is usually accompanied by complications that can lead to hospitalisation.
Immunisation offers protection from illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, Hepatitis and a form of diarrhoea; all these illnesses can be fatal if left untreated. Babies and children need to have had a total of seven immunisations by the age of six years.
Immunisations are given at the following ages:
- At birth, the healthcare worker will administer polio drops and a TB vaccination before you and your baby leave the maternity ward.
- At six, ten and 14 weeks after birth, parents should take their babies to the clinic for further immunisations.
- At nine and 18 months after birth; at six years of age before starting grade.
Parents need to take their children for the scheduled immunisations, even if the child is ill. Remember: Even if your child is immunised, he/she may still contract one of the illnesses, but the symptoms will be much less severe than if the child was not immunised. A child should be taken to the clinic closest to them as indicated by the healthcare worker. When visiting the clinic, the healthcare worker will also evaluate the child's development by measuring certain milestones such as crawling and walking. When a child visits a clinic, carers need to bring along the child's Road to Health Card/Clinic Card. Remember it is your child's most important health record.
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