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Apr 26
Health Systems Trust launches COVID-19-focussed 2021 South African Review

By: Lunga Memela (Communications Engagement Lead)

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Health Minister Joe Phaahla receives the publication from the Chair of HST's Board of Trustees, Dr Dumani Kula. Equally excited by the handover: SAHR Guest Editor from HEARD, Professor Gavin George; SAHR Managing Editor, Ms Ashnie Padarath; and HST CEO and Co-editor, Dr Themba Moeti.

The Health Systems Trust (HST) together with its collaborator, the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD), were thrilled to present the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, with a copy of the 24th South African Health Review (SAHR) – one of HST's flagship publications – that was produced this time as a special edition funded by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation. The publication focuses on health sector responses to COVID-19 and what has been learnt, two years into the pandemic.  

The much-anticipated journal was officially presented to the National Department of Health (NDoH) at an event that took place at the Southern Sun Hotel in Pretoria on Friday, 22 April 2022. It was a hybrid event, attended in person and also virtually by a diverse group, including the members of HST's Board of Trustees, the authors, co-editors, funders, media houses and other contributors that made the publication and its launch a tremendous success.

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SAHR Managing Editor, Ms Ashnie Padarath and Guest Editor from HEARD, Professor Gavin George addressing the auditorium at the launch.

About the theme: Health Sector responses to COVID-19, what have we learnt?

Conceptualising the theme for this special edition, the editors (HST's Ashnie Padarath and Dr Themba Moeti together with Professors Kaymarlin Govender and Gavin George from HEARD) agreed that when it comes to service delivery and access in both the public and private health sectors, COVID-19 has put everything to the test. They reiterated that the pandemic has demonstrated how central public health security is to health and livelihoods, and how pandemic health emergencies expose the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of health systems, costing lives and causing immeasurable damage to economies. That is why this edition considers the government and broader health sector's response to COVID-19: it explores the current challenges facing the health system at this unprecedented time, and reflects on lessons learnt for future for public health emergencies. 

"The chapters offer information on, inter alia, the challenges of balancing lives with livelihoods, and the impact of COVID-19 on different cadres of healthcare workers, especially Community Health Workers who found themselves at the forefront of our COVID-19 response. Other areas covered include the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations like children, persons with disabilities, farmworkers, migrants, and the poorest in our society," the speakers highlighted at the event.

As per the SAHR standard, the journal comprises of 29 peer-reviewed chapters with over 100 contributors, most of whom are established experts in the health sector, and whose topics thematically capture both the impact of COVID-19 and the health sector's response. It also provides recommendations for building a stronger and more resilient health system.

The significance of the publication is effectively captured in a video that was played at the launch, making it clear that this edition of the SAHR will be not only be a national, but also global, resource. The full publication can be downloaded in PDF format from HST's website. Chapters at a Glance can also be accessed on HST's website.

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South African Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla
In his keynote address, Minister Phaala said he would like to convey the deep appreciation of Government and the DoH for the tremendous contribution all its partners have made to the fight against COVID-19, the maintenance of key health services in these difficult times and their support for the continuing development of our health system. He said: "Many of you are sitting in this room today and the journal we are launching in many ways documents the work that you have done in collaboration with our health system in the fight against this pandemic. We would not be where we are today without your support, and I believe we will all take the lessons documented in this journal this evening and apply them to make our health system better prepared for and more resilient to the challenges of pandemics and emerging health challenges such as COVID-19."

Minister Phaahla congratulated HST on its 30th anniversary. "They [HST] have played a critical role in helping build and strengthen the health system in the 28 years of our democracy and remain a valued partner. May they grow from strength to strength and leave a lasting impression on our health system," said the Minister.

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HST CEO, Dr Themba Moeti and UKZN's Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation, Professor Mosa Moshabela applauding the page turner SAHR 2021 at the launch

HST's CEO, Dr Themba Moeti, served as programme director at the launch. All the speakers took a moment to acknowledge the lives lost and terrible impact of recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal, communities in which both HST and UKZN operate. 

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Ms Laura Nel, Johnson & Johnson’s Director for Global Community Impact, representing the funder of the publication, also addressed the audience. She said the Foundation was incredibly proud to be associated with a publication of this stature. “It gives an important voice for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.” She wished HST a happy 30th anniversary. 



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