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SOUTH AFRICAN HEALTH REVIEW 2006 - Maternal, Womens and Child Health - the unfinished agenda


Great strides have been made in improving maternal care in South Africa over the last decade. A record high of ninety percent of pregnant women attend antenatal care and 92% of deliveries of babies are conducted by skilled health workers. Despite such achievements in access to care, maternal deaths are on the increase, mostly fuelled the HIV and TB epidemics.

Many gains have been made in improving access to and quality of health care for children. However, gaps remain in delivery of key health promotion and disease prevention for children, and many children still fall ill and die from preventable and treatable conditions. Child mortality has also increased, fuelled largely by HIV, which is reversing gains made in child survival over the last decade. While the number of children receiving antiretroviral therapy is relatively low, this is gradually increasing.

Postnatal transmission of HIV from mother-to-child through breast milk remains a key challenge despite the availability of replacement feeds as part of the national PMTCT programme.

The co-existence of both under and over nutrition among South African children under nutrition combined with the effects of HIV is leading to a triple burden of disease requires innovative and sustainable responses.

These are some of the findings of the 11th edition of the widely acclaimed South African Health Review (SAHR) which was launched in Midrand today. This edition of the SAHR Review focuses on maternal, women's and child health and seeks to reflect on achievements made, challenges and gaps that impact on transformation and strengthening of the South African health system. Published annually since 1995, an important purpose of the South African Health Review (SAHR) is to serve as a knowledge resource on the development of the national health system, and to contribute to the assessment of the implementation of health policies. said CEO of the HST Dr Lilian Dudley.

This years SAHR confirms the indivisibility of maternal, womens and child health and reinforces the need for multi-sectoral, collaborative initiatives which take a more broader view of the determinants of health outcomes such as water, nutrition and education, all of which need to work together if the health of vulnerable populations is to improve remarked Dudley.

Dudley added that the release of the findings of the SAHR was timed to co-incide with the 16 days of activism against women and children and World Aids Day. HIV has been implicated in the causation and aggravation of many existing illnesses and has extracted a considerable toll on the human and financial resources of the health system she said. Women's social status and the effects of violence against women and children results in a variety of disabling mental conditions which have implications for the health system and society as a whole.

The Review which consists of 22 chapters also includes chapters on health care financing, health policy and legislation, the impact of international trade treaties on South Africas National Health Act and Health Management Information Systems. This years Review suggests that SA has made considerable progress in strengthening its health management information system which is a touchstone of an efficient health system she concluded.

For more information contact: Ashnie Padarath,, 031- 307 2954, 083 299 7129 or Petrida Ijumba,, 031-307 2954, 082 505 8598

Download the SAHR 2006 here