The vision of the People’s Health Movement–South Africa (PHM–SA) is universal health coverage and the right to health for all.
The mission of the PHM–SA is to improve the capacity of individuals and communities to realise their right to health and health care, and to advocate for a Primary Health Care approach.
PHM–SA advocates and lobbies for:
- Increased access to health care and health-related services;
- Improved quality of health care and health-related service delivery;
- Effective implementation of the Patients’ Charter;
- Strengthened ability of civil society organisations to organise communities around their right to health;
- Addressing the social determinants of health to mitigate their impact on health and health care in South Africa.
PHM–SA plays a vital advocacy role in the ongoing struggle to realise health as a human right and de-commoditize health care in South Africa. PHM–SA is a leader in galvanizing national civil society support and engagement in coalition building and networking around the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy process. As Secretariat to the NHI coalition, PHM–SA will play a key civil society watchdog role in the process of health systems transformation.
PHM–SA is engaged in building a broad-based popular movement for equitable resource allocation in the pursuit of universal health coverage in South Africa. At a grassroots level, PHM–SA engages in community education and mobilization to enable communities to participate meaningfully in the development and implementation of health policies.
ABOUT THE PEOPLE’S HEALTH MOVEMENT–SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa has become the most unequal society in the world, as measured by the Gini coefficient. Despite our progressive Constitution, the rights of the majority of our people – to dignity, life, freedom and security, privacy, health – are violated on a daily basis by the conditions in which they live. Currently, and for the foreseeable future, the majority of people in South Africa’s informal settlements, sprawling townships, rural areas and on farms, live in unhealthy, even life threatening, conditions. All people, especially growing, developing children, require adequate nutrition, access to safe drinking water, sanitation services and comprehensive primary health care.
The People’s Health Movement–South Africa (PHM–SA) is part of a global network of activists, civil society groups, faith community members, trade unionists, researchers and ordinary people who share the vision of universal health coverage and the right to health for all. Our flagship project, The Right to Health Campaign, was launched in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, on 8th September 2007, when hundreds of people marched through the streets from Nolungile Clinic to Oliver Tambo Hall. People of all ages carried posters calling for ‘Public Health Before Private Wealth’, ‘Health for All NOW’, ‘Clean Drinking Water’, ‘Healthier Environments’, ‘Work Opportunities’ and other slogans, including… ‘Leaders We Can Trust!’
PHM–SA advocates and lobbies for: Increased access to health care and health-related services; Improved quality of health care and health-related service delivery; Effective implementation of the Patients’ Charter; Strengthened ability of civil society organisations to organise communities around their right to health; Addressing the social determinants of health to mitigate their impact on health and health care in South Africa.
PHM–SA supports the call for implementation of a National Health Insurance (NHI) system to improve access to health care for all who live in South Africa. PHM–SA acts as a leader in galvanizing national civil society support and engagement in coalition building and networking around the NHI policy process, and will act as a civil society watchdog during implementation.
The history of health activism in South Africa dates back to well before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Transvaal doctors, treating thousands of people recruited to work on South Africa’s mines, recognised the link between the appalling conditions in which miners were housed and their ill health and high mortality rate. They formedthe Transvaal Mine Medical Officers’ Association in 1921, and thereafter, living conditions and miners’ health improved. In the early 1940s, doctors Henry Gluckman and Sidney Kark acknowledged the impact of social and economic inequalities on health. They developed an early primary health care blueprint based on the Polela experiment. This experiment saw community health workers working with families on health education, including basic nutrition, hygiene and family planning. The Gluckman Commission planned to roll out similar programmes nationally. This plan was not implemented due to the regime change in 1948.
1977 saw a turning point in the history of health activism in South Africa. Following the appalling lack of truth in investigations into Steve Biko’s death in custody in the Eastern Cape, progressive doctors resigned in protest from the Medical Association of South Africa (MASA), forming the National Medical and Dental Association (NAMDA). Inspired by the Declaration of Alma Ata in 1978, health activists formed the National Progressive Primary Health Care Network and the Health for All Resource Service to promote Health for All by 2000. In 1986, rural health workers formed the Rural Disability Action Group (RURACT) and activists for children formed Disabled Children’s Action Group (DICAG) in keeping with the World Health Organization’s vision of community-based rehabilitation.
During the 1980s, “selective primary health care” was introduced in the public sector but the vital socio-economic factors impacting on people’s lives continued to be ignored. The enormous gap between the quality of life and health care for the majority of people and those who could afford it private health care, continued to widen. In spite of growing public protests for improvements in health care, those in charge of policy and resource allocation continued continued to ignore public health. The health needs of the majority of our citizens were neglected, and resources were focused on hospitals and private health care.
HEALTH CARE AFTER DEMOCRACY
With the democratic election of the ANC in 1994, the health system faced massive challenges, many of which still persist today. The combination of macroeconomic policies and poor leadership encouraged economic growth, instead of economic redistribution. As a result, the economic disparities between the races increased instead of diminished. While, the public health system has transformed into a comprehensive national service, failures in stewardship and weak management have led to inadequate implementation of what are often good policies. Pivotal facets of primary health care are not in place and there is a substantial human resources crisis facing the health sector. The quadruple burden of diseases, including the massive HIV epidemic has contributed to and accelerated these challenges. During this time, the private sector grew exponentially for those who could afford it. This serves to commoditise health care and increase impetus for renewed activism among health activists for universal health care coverage, which included the start of PHM-SA in 2007.
PHM IN THE ‘NEW’ SOUTH AFRICA
PHM–SA plays a vital advocacy role in the ongoing struggle to realise health as a human right and de-commoditize health care in South Africa. Our networks include PHM Circles around the world as well as international and local oganisations who support our campaigns. Our common concerns include: comprehensive primary health care, the social determinants of health, and most broadly, the right to health for all, under the auspices of universal coverage.
The PHM–SA Steering Committee and two part-time staff members coordinate all activities, including: public meetings around the NHI; media campaigns; networking; community training in health and human rights; gathering individual testimonies of violations of the right to health; participating in South Africa’s Second Poverty Hearings, held in Khayelitsha in 2008. In 2008, PHM–SA was actively involved in providing emergency relief, support and health care during the crisis in South Africa’s informal settlements, which forced the exodus of thousands of refugees and migrants. We worked closely with health and safety structures, community organisations and ordinary citizens to provide shelter, food and basic necessities to the thousands of displaced people.
Since its formation in late 2007, PHM–SA has brought together activists, civil society groups, community members, trade unionists and researchers around the right to health. Supportive donors have included Oxfam Great Britain, Medico and FOS in Belgium and have made our work possible.PHM–SA is greatly inspired by the PHM People’s Charter for Health and the successful popular campaign in Bhopal, India, in 2007.
We look forward to a time when we can gather positive testimonies from people whose quality of life and health care has improved in our own country.
TO CONTACT PEOPLES HEALTH MOVEMENT SOUTH AFRICA
Phone: 021 447 5770