The winner of this year's Emerging Public Health Practitioner is 26-year old Kganetso Sekome, a lecturer in public health and community physiotherapy in the health science faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Sekome won the prize for his submission on clinical practice guidelines for stroke patients in rural hospital settings.
"I first heard of this award in 2015 when one of my lecturers from UKZN won it. I was so inspired by it being won by someone I knew.
When I was doing my community service in a rural hospital in r Bushbuckridge, I realised that my colleagues weren't using the stroke guidelines or were unaware of them. If these patients don't get the proper treatment after a stroke they could die or become disabled.
When I work with patients I emphasise that it is important to have the family involved throughout the whole rehab process, so that the treatment is sustainable.
Non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension can lead to strokes and this is sadly becoming more prevalent due to lifestyle changes, genetics and a Westernised diet with too much salt and sugar. There are efforts underway to reduce sugar, such as the "sugar tax" which is already affecting the way people consume cold drinks. But we also need to be aware of how we are training our children's palates when we routinely add unnecessary salt and sugar to food we prepare at home.
We must focus less on curative and more on preventive medicine. We are successfully treating HIV and TB so people are living longer but we now face the challenge of an increase in rising non-communicable diseases.
I'm from Bushbuckridge and I know that people have lost faith in the public hospitals because of poor service delivery. I grew up in this context so I can relate to the concerns and issues of the community. Each year I send my students to Bushbuckridge for community service and clinical training so that they can give something back and ensure help deliver high quality care.
I hope this award will inspire my students and peers, as well as anyone else thinking about going into public health. We need to tell young public health practitioners not to be intimidated and go ahead and apply for this award. I am still in disbelief that I am the recipient of the emerging public health practitioner award, this recognition will enable me to grow my network and meet people in the health systems trust that I can collaborate with and learn from.
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