Wellness initiative puts children’s health first

Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, MEC for Health and MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer hand out toothpaste to the children.

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo and Education MEC Debbie Schäfer visited the wellness mobile for school health at Yomelela Primary School in Khayelitsha this week where Grade R and Grade 1 pupils at the school received dental screenings.

The health mobiles, a joint initiative between these two departments launched in 2014 with the assistance of the private sector, have been instrumental in taking primary healthcare to children in hard-to-reach-areas of the province and has helped the departments of health and education in ensuring that no child goes through school without having had the necessary health screenings.

Dr Mbombo and Ms Schäfer, accompanied by various officials and community leaders, gathered at Yomelela Primary on Tuesday January 29.

The health mobile will be stationed at the school for two weeks before moving to other schools where it would mainly focus on conducting dental and eye assessments and also screen general diseases.

Dr Mbombo said the Grade R and Grade 1s were the missing age group in terms of getting the necessary health attention from parents and health care facilities. She said at the ages of 5 and below children get vaccinated at health care facilities.

However, she said through this programme they wanted to close that gap. Dr Mbombo said the parents of these pupils in this age group often do not have time to take them to the clinic because they were at work.

She said they therefore felt that it was apt to bring the mobile clinic to the school. “The health of children comes first. The children could also get free spectacles if it needs be. We wish that we could also include all the children up to the age of 12 years but due to limited financial constraints we are unable to do so. “We want these children to get proper health screenings to ensure that their development is not disturbed. I hope the community steps up and protects this clinic,” she said. Dr Mbombo said this was one step towards reducing the burden facing community primary health care facilities. Ms Schäfer told the pupils that if they had sight problems they could not learn therefore these two departments had opted to embark on such a programme.

She said healthy children learn better and could focus in class.

She said all these efforts were designed to ensure that their education and health were not compromised. “We want your parents not to worry about your health while you’re at school.

“We want you to focus on your studies. Education and health are important to children’s development,” she said.

Principal Sibongiseni Dlaku said the school was delighted with this initiative and hoped that it would yield the desired results.

He said the clinic would definitely curb absenteeism among the pupils. Mr Dlaku also said many times teachers had to be doctors and nurses when children get sick at school so this clinic certainly helped in that regard.