The 2020 South African Health Review focuses on healthcare for people with disabilities
25 Jan 2021
By Nelisiwe Msomi
The Health Systems Trust’s annual health review has been released. The 300-page document focuses on the challenges peoples with disabilities face when accessing healthcare services. Health24 has summarised some of the most important points of the report:
A transformative approach to disability awareness driven by persons with disabilities
The report says that persons with disabilities have also become educators and providers of a service rather than merely recipients of healthcare services.
This reversal of roles is enriching student clinicians’ knowledge and understanding of disability and is shifting it from theory to practice.
To bring about balance, experts recommend that there should be a review and adjustment of the therapeutic profession curriculum. People with disabilities should be invited to form part of the teams reviewing and updating the curriculum.
This will create a People for Awareness of Disability Issues project that has an experiential teaching-and-learning approach, facilitating the implementation of disability policies and practices in a community of practice.
Reducing psychosocial disability for persons with severe mental illness in South Africa
Some of the key findings show that there is inadequate epidemiological data on severe mental illness and psychosocial disability in the country.
Experts say that psychosocial disability has a negative economic impact on persons with mental illness, governments, employers, and society. Stigma and lack of psychosocial rehabilitation are a barrier for people with mental illness.
The authors say that South Africa should move towards equitable access to healthcare for persons with mental illness. They recommend that early intervention should be part of the recovery programme.
They also say that there should prioritisation of South African research on mental health and legislative and policy improvements, especially with regard to the Medical Schemes Act.
The lack of Universal Health Coverage for people with disabilities
The authors emphasise that people with disabilities have greater healthcare needs than those without disabilities. They need tailored healthcare services.
They, however, face challenges such as limited access to tailored primary healthcare services, with financial difficulties being a main barrier to seeking healthcare.
Experts note that a lack of disability-specific services, including rehabilitation, prevents many people with disabilities from accessing the services and assistive devices they need.
As a result of the lack of universal health coverage for people with disabilities, South Africa has higher levels of unmet health needs and worse morbidity and mortality outcomes among the disabled than in those without disabilities.
To remedy this, the authors say that there is a need for higher levels of political will, leadership, and funding to implement the robust disability-inclusive policies and plans that already exist in South Africa.