Creative interventions help people work toward better health
In 2005, PATH established a program in South Africa with the goal of making a significant contribution to the health and development of the country. Our program now has offices in Vanderbijlpark, Witbank, Empangeni, Kuruman and Johannesburg.
Our projects in South Africa address a host of health needs. Our focus, however, is on improving maternal health, enhancing infant and young child health, strengthening health systems, supporting improved sanitation, and preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. We are also looking at the introduction of sustainable, high impact medical devices and health platform technologies through development of a South African innovation hub.
In South Africa, the prevalence of HIV among adults appears to have stabilized at a high rate—estimated at nearly 18 percent in 2009. In the provinces where we work most frequently—KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape—prevalence is higher, and rates among pregnant women may be higher still.
Working toward HIV prevention
Our team, often in collaboration with partners, uses an array of techniques to bring health within reach. Our magnet theater troupes, for example, use community performances to engage their audiences in learning about HIV and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus. The infant feeding buddies project matches new mothers who are HIV positive with partners who can support them in their choice to breastfeed their babies. Our support of the Midwives AIDS Alliance helps midwives increase their knowledge and understand the influence they can have both with patients and within the health care community.
We focus especially on leadership, skills development, advocacy, and women’s empowerment. We’re also deeply involved in building awareness and management of gender-based violence—which poses a major challenge in health care for mothers, children, and women—and its effect on control and prevention of HIV and AIDS.
Improving the health of young children
Early childhood, especially from birth to two years of age, represents a critical window of opportunity to enhance the health and development of young children and to prevent the onset of chronic diseases later in life. To promote the well-being of young children, PATH improves critical services for vulnerable populations. We build community capacity and tailor activities to local needs through partnerships with local health and social services providers, as well as nongovernmental and community-based organizations. We also focus on the strengthening of local health and development systems so that meaningful change can take place and there is support from the authorities and community structures.
An estimated 25 percent of South African children experience stunting from inadequate nutrition, and many mothers do not know the best ways to feed their infants and young children. PATH informs South Africa’s national guidelines on feeding infants and young children, helping to align them with international standards. We also contribute to national efforts to curb malnutrition through radio spots about vitamin A supplementation, growth monitoring, deworming, and catch-up immunizations. At the local level, we mobilize communities and municipal governments to integrate nutrition activities into community development plans.
Banner photo: PATH/Wendy Stone.