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Child Health Advocacy Committee of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health

The Child Health Advocacy Committee was established by the School of Child and Adolescent Health in 2009, under the leadership of Prof Heather Zar and initially chaired by Professor Louis Reynolds.  Since then the Advocacy Committee has grown and now includes members from Red Cross, Victoria, Somerset and Mowbray Maternity hospitals with strong links to public, provincial and national health. 

Our mission

•    The Advocacy Committee aims to promote, and give effect to, children’s rights to health, survival and development within the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, the hospitals in which we teach/practice, and the wider community that we serve. This includes evaluating the health care we provide, advocating for change, and addressing the upstream determinants of child health.

•   The urgent need for such action stems from the persistent inequities in children’s health, living conditions and access to health     care services – in a country where under-five mortality remains unacceptably high and is driven primarily by preventable and     treatable conditions linked to poverty. 

•    We recognise that children in South Africa are often voiceless when it comes to their rights to appropriate and safe healthcare and that - as professionals who are concerned with the health of children - we have a responsibility to draw the attention of responsible parties to the plight of this vulnerable group.  

•    This includes an urgent need to evaluate the healthcare that we deliver at Red Cross and our other teaching hospitals in order to ensure that our activities are in line with our responsibilities to uphold the rights of children as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the South African Bill of Rights and the Children’s Act, and that we are promoting children’s rights through our research, teaching and services. 

•    As healthcare providers at the coalface we are uniquely placed to evaluate these questions and to use our resources to advocate for change and improvement where necessary. In the same way we are well placed through our clinical practice and research to establish how the upstream social determinants of health reveal areas where policy and delivery fail to uphold the rights of children.

Core areas of our work

1.    Education and Training 

It is vital to extend students view beyond the narrow clinical focus of paediatrics and to mainstream a child health approach across the curriculum - including undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, registrar training, continuous professional development, and the Wednesday Morning Clinical Meetings. 

2.    Responding to immediate challenges 

We aim to respond and engage proactively with challenges that arise within our service and catchment area. For example: advocating for investment in social work services to address the growing burden of child abuse and neglect, and motivating for a breastfeeding room at Red Cross Children’s Hospital to enable staff to continue breastfeeding.

3.    Advocating around child health priorities

This includes mobilising resources and expertise within the Department to address child health priorities in the metropole, province and country (such as the diarrhoea, breastfeeding, or national health insurance).