April 2018

Salisha Lauton, Orbis International Africa Programme Director, gives us something to chew on as we celebrate World Health Day on 7 April 2018

When Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. uttered the words: “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time” in the 1960s his context was that of a military leader. His words could not be more profound when considering instances where strategies in the developing world have gained momentum and are contributing towards attaining Universal Eye Health for All.

As the world celebrates World Health Day on Saturday 7 April 2018, Orbis International Africa is working towards achieving this elephant-sized goal in South Africa, one bite at a time.

A complex, multi-faceted objective can only be achieved through the collective efforts of many. This is why Orbis International Africa has joined the SACSoWACH coalition. Working with like-minded organisations, Orbis, as part of South African Civil Society for Women’s Adolescent’s and Children’s Health, advocates for the integration of eye health services into routine healthcare for young children aged 0-5 years in South Africa.

In terms of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Policy, the South African Department of Health is responsible for the provision of universally available and equitably accessible services to support the development of all children in South Africa in their first 1000 days. A critical tool in this provision is the Road to Health Booklet (RtHB), a printed booklet given to parents or caregivers when a child is born and serves as a record of their child’s clinic visits, immunisations and development. Plans are underway to support its services and messaging through mobile technology, such as MomConnect and a dedicated mobile App.

Orbis International Africa applauds the steps taken by the National Department of Health (NDOH) in ensuring the delivery of the ECD services it is responsible for providing. Notably, the revision of the RtHB to provide a platform for delivery of the required ECD package through public health services. The booklet forms an integral part of NDOH’s Side by Side campaign which aims to ensure all children in South Africa receive the nurturing care and protection they need to reach their full potential.

The RtHB has five service delivery pillars, two of which represent relatively new areas for the health system – Love (pillar 2) and Extra Care (pillar 5). These pillars include the provision of services related to responsive care support, developmental screening and monitoring, early learning and material support; services all intrinsically linked to child eye health care.

SACSoWACH is collaborating with the NDOH in developing the two new pillars. This partnership brings the diversity of knowledge and experience together that is essential for effective ECD programming. Orbis International Africa is privileged to be part of this initiative and will contribute to the development of messaging, services and supporting systems for promoting optimal eye health of young children in South Africa.

South Africa has a proud history of collaboration and its achievements in the areas of young child health and development are proof that collaborative, inclusive and visionary strategies will drive us forward in attaining Universal Eye Health for All. Yet, they will only succeed if we join forces with partners who share a common vision because, if we don’t, we may not have the courage to take the first bite.