Women urged to prioritise their health: Mbombo | Western Cape Government



Women urged to prioritise their health: Mbombo

13 September 2017



Non communicable Diseases contributed 68% of deaths in women in the Western Cape

In lieu of August being Women’s Month, Western Cape Minister of Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo is encouraging women to prioritise their health and wellbeing.

“Cancer, heart disease and stroke, reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections (STI), gender-based violence and mental health are just a few of the health related challenges faced by women in the Western Cape. However many women still remain reluctant to seek medical assistance and speak up about health issues.” says Mbombo. 

She highlights that approximately 6.4 million individuals currently live in the Western Cape, of which women account for more than 50%. “Diabetes is the number one killer of women in the Western Cape and the second biggest killer in South Africa. Often referred to as “lifestyle diseases”, Non communicable Diseases (NCD) such as diabetes and hypertension is mainly caused by smoking, alcohol, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

The most recent Non communicable Diseases (NCD) in the Western Cape: Burden of Disease Update (2013) indicated that NCD contributed 68% of deaths in women compared with 56% among men. The report also highlighted that diabetes continues to rank higher in women (fourth) than men (eighth) in terms of leading causes of mortality.

“It is vital that women take proactive steps to improve their health, because when you feel good physically, mentally and emotionally, you are able to improve the quality of your life and of those around you,” she says.

Mbombo clarifies that a growing number of women are failing to seek medical assistance because they find themselves too busy with work and family commitments, leaving less time for them to prioritise their own health. “The Western Cape Government Health has launched health initiatives conscious of this. The recently launched First 1000 Days initiative, is a holistic programme focusing on promoting the well-being of mothers and their babies,” says Mbombo.

She highlighted improving women’s and child health is a global priority, as well as a key service priority in the department. “The Western Cape has the lowest perinatal mortality rate (a foetal death (stillbirth) or an early neonatal death), infant mortality rate (death of a child under the age of one year), under 5 mortality rate and maternal mortality rate in South Africa,” says Mbombo.

She stresses that in order for to maintain these favourable results women are required to make their health a priority. “We are expecting 94 289 births at public health facilities during the 2017/ 2018 Financial Year, this is 6 168 more births than the 2016/ 2017 Financial Year. In 2015/16, of the 90 554 women attending antenatal services at least once, approximately 67 per cent attended within the first 20 weeks of their pregnancies. This percentage is expected to increase to approximately 69.2% of a probable 89 679 expecting mothers during the 2017/ 2018 Financial Year.

“Antenatal services are available at all Primary Healthcare Facilities (PHC) early attendance enables our medical teams to treat and manage treatable health conditions that the mother-to-be may develop. These include high blood pressure and anaemia, which are major risk factors for maternal death,” she says.

Mbombo also explains that antenatal care is vital in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. “HIV can be detected early during pregnancy; this makes it less likely that the infant will contract HIV and decreases the chance for infections before or after birth, for both mother and child,” she explains.

The Western Cape Government also has Reproductive Clinics across the province that provides access to free counselling, Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) services and contraceptives. “Currently, the provincial birth rates are 2.1 children per woman in her lifetime, which suggests that contraception provision and uptake are effective,” says Mbombo.

It is important to highlight that women’s health doesn’t stop at maternal services. According to Mbombo cervical and breast cancer are two of the most common forms of cancer found amongst South African women. “Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. All women are encouraged to go for a pap smear at their local primary health care clinic at least every 10 years starting at age 30 years,” she says.

The Western Cape Government Health is expected to perform approximately 94 183 cervical cancer screenings to women 30 years and older during the 2017/ 2018 financial year. “99% of cervical cancers are associated with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and can be prevented. With the intention of reducing the risk of females developing HPV related cervical cancer later in life, the Western Cape Government Health started rolling out HPV vaccination in 2014 at all public and special schools across the Western Cape. The 2017 HPV vaccination drive will commence on the 22nd of August,” explains Mbombo.

She reiterates that the Department has many initiatives on the go to assist women with maintaining their health and for identifying potentially life-threatening symptoms. “The Western Cape has 41 Acute Hospitals and 479 Primary Health Centre (PHC) service points at a woman’s disposal; however it would be futile if females don’t make an effort to adapt adequate lifestyle changes.

“It is important to remember that many of the health problems faced by women in older age are the result of exposure to risk factors in adolescence and adulthood. It is time that we as females realise that health care is a team effort, and you are the most important member of the team,” concludes Mbombo.

Media Enquiries: 

Bianca Carls
Communications Officer: General Specialist and EMS Directorate
Western Cape Government: Department of Health
Landline:          021 918 1671
Mobile:             083 644 3383
Email:               bianca.carls@westerncape.gov.za