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SALGA calls for Municipalities to prioritise Municipal Health Services as part of developmental agenda

Posted: 01 February 2017

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SALGA has called for municipalities to prioritise municipal health services as one of the key deliverables in their Integrated Developmental Plans (IDPs) and make resources available to deliver these critical services to communities.

SALGA, in partnership with the South African Institute of Environmental Health (SAEIH), the City of Cape Town, International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH) hosted the 2017 Municipal Health Service (MHS) Summit in Cape Town, from 30 January - 01 February.

The three-day summit was held to celebrate "20 Years of Environmental Health Excellence".

Funding of Environmental Health Services remains one of the biggest challenges still faced by the profession.  Within the local government equitable share for basic services, Environmental Health is allocated the least amount. Local government receives less than 10% of the total equitable share, of this less than 3% of the funds are allocated for Environmental Health as a basic service.

Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa entrenches the right of all citizens to live in an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being. The South African Constitution (Act 36 of 1996) also identifies Municipal Health Services (MHS) as a function of Local Government (Part B of Schedule 4).

Addressing summit delegates this morning, President of the South African Institute of Environmental Health Dr. Selva Mudaly said: "South Africa still has a high burden of preventable diseases which can be mitigated through improvements in the environment. Investigation of outbreaks of disease, monitoring of the environment and health promotion have in the main been provided by environmental health practitioners, most of whom are employed by local government."

"When are we going to realize what we were taught as children; that prevention is better than cure? The idea of prevention in South Africa needs to change. It is the duty of the Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) to conscientise politicians about environmental health issues.  Environmental Health cuts across various disciplines and it is, therefore, incumbent that it takes center stage in various municipalities in determining the developmental agenda and processes."

Dr Selva Mudaly urged that EHPs prioritize their work functions which are legal obligations mandated from the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

"We must drive environmental health for the benefit of our communities. Without those communities, they will be no work for EHPs. When the summit finishes, the resolutions will be accompanied by the action plan."

Staffing in Environment Health is another area where South Africa still falls short in meeting the World Health Organization (WHO) staffing norms of 1:10, 000 Environment Health Practitioner (EHP) to population ratio. These are some of the issues that SALGA wants to be addressed.
Among the speakers at the summit was MEC for Health Western Cape, Dr. Nomafrench Mbombo and President of the International Federation of Environmental Health. Mr. Peter Archer.

The summit was attended by councillors, municipal delegates, representatives from National and Provincial health departments, Health Profession Council of South Africa and academia.

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