Whoopee! Next month it’s my 67th birthday and this blog, #VixView, is my celebration of life. The goal is to stay alive for three more years. Why three years, I hear you ask?
Dying early -the magic of 70
Let’s blame it on the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goal number 3 target 3.4:
By 2030 reduce by one-third pre-mature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and wellbeing
So if I die between the ages of 30 and 70 years, it is too soon. Well not me specifically, but people who live with non-communicable diseases (NCDs). You get the drift – so I am hanging in for 3 more years. It sounds a bit like an electioneering slogan. But it isn’t. It’s deadly serious. Really.
An activist – why me?
Today I coexist with over 20 health conditions, all NCDs, with the first illness, psoriasis, starting in my first 500 days. I have a most productive and interesting life despite this seemingly woeful state of my health.
Being an NCDs activist gripped me tighter each time I survived another near-death experience (NDEs). Trust me, NDEs change one’s perspective, one’s way of being. I found that to live, I had to fight for my life. So that’s what I do and along the way, I do it for and with those who living with NCDs. I learned radical self-care.
Note: Don’t scoff too much about NDEs. Remember Angelo Agrizzi and what he did after his NDE?
50 years on
If that isn’t enough, this is my 50th year as a health professional working in the health sector. It feels like an alien place. I have a 360º view through all the learning and experience. My beacon remains the Alma Ata vision of primary health care.
Today, with profound sadness, I see us facing many of the challenges from when I first began back in 1970. I recognise that the health system in our noble land often fails us, its people, irrespective of where we get care: public or private. Evidence is all around.
The South African elections are over, and it is back to business. It needs to be business as unusual in the case of NCDs prevention and management. Business as unusual? Einstein characterised insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When advocates argue, politicians vote, and organizations campaign, they say they are trying to shape or respond to political will. Political will is the ghost in the machine of politics, the motive force that generates political action. Charney Research
NCDs policy is a case in point with the now expired South African NCDs strategic plan (2013-2017) failing dismally even to scratch the surface of the epidemic. Similar to much of SA health policy, it was purely window dressing, with implementation and budgets unmeasurable. For the last decade, communicable disease (like HIV and TB) is the only health concern of politicians. Jacob Zuma and his ilk came to power on that ticket with a policy emphasising “universal access” for people living with HIV. And so national health insurance (NHI) and its identical twin, HIV treatment access, were born. Politicians and deployed officials don’t differentiate between the two. When you add “health systems strengthening” and the “Ideal Clinic” to the HIV/NHI package, it equals the current broken and siloed healthcare system.
Policy consistency as art
Let us not pretend otherwise as we head for the 2nd State of the Nation Address in 2019 with a raft of fledgeling MPs for 6th Parliament. There is zero political will deal with NCDs. Oops, there are two exceptions: fiscal measures and cancers linked to HIV (cervix and breast at a stretch). In the health bit of the 2019 ANC election manifesto, NHI and HIV remain the only priority. The same goes for the 2019 health budget. Policy consistency as an art form, only Einstein says it is insanity
So, business as unusual for people living with NCDs means acknowledging that NCDs like diabetes, stroke, heart disease and chronic lung problems are the biggest killers in South Africa. It means giving NCDs an equivalent priority alongside HIV and TB and putting the missing money where its collective mouth is.
Political will is the missing ingredient in the SDG era. It is going to take more than cheap words and a dawn walk in the name of NCDs prevention.
In September 2018 the United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs (UN HLM NCDs) takes place. People around the world are joining together to say: “We have had #EnoughNCDs and action is needed. Now!”
The SANCDA joins the global campaign convened by NCD Alliance together with our global network of people and organizations. We demand that our government prioritize NCDs as they have promised to do since 2011. So we are calling for governments to act going into the UN HLM NCDs.
This is what we are asking for as South Africans:
1. Put people first – you and me who live every day with NCDs.
2. Boost NCD investment so that empty promises stop and there is NCDs action.
3. Step up action on childhood obesity but don’t forget to beat childhood malnutritionin all of its forms.
4. Adopt smart fiscal policies that promote health and then put some money into NCDs prevention and treatment.
5. Save lives through equitable access to NCDs treatment through universal health coverage (NHI).
6. Improve government accountability to the people for progress, results and resources.
Please join us! You can show your support for the cause by championing a leader or personality who will support the fight against NCDs. Please contact us with your ideas and suggestions. We would love to hear from you. requests. For further information please checkin the back with the SANCDA for more on the movement and campaign as it progresses.