Health in 2023: A deceptively busy year in fewer than 1 000 words

2023 was a busy year for healthcare in South Africa. We saw several promising policy developments, landmark court cases, important pieces of legislation, and some changes in leadership. Yet, take a step back and at facility level little seems to have changed. Shortages of healthcare workers persist, corruption is still rife, budgets tight, and our health governance crisis remains as acute as ever. Marcus Low looks back at the year in health in fewer than 1 000 words.

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Integrating HIV and NCD care is critical but not straight-forward, clinicians say

With the remarkable success of antiretroviral treatment people living with HIV in South Africa are generally living much longer than they did two decades ago. As a result, more people with HIV are also now living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension. Accordingly, the need to better integrate HIV and NCD services was a hot topic at the recent Southern African HIV Clinicians Society conference in Cape Town. Elri Voigt reports.

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Analysis: Incentives seem to work in private healthcare, why not in public?

Doing ‘the right thing’ for one’s health, be it eating well, exercising, or going for an annual HIV test or blood pressure check, is easier said than done. One way to nudge people to make these ‘right’ decisions is to offer rewards or incentives. Amy Green asks whether aspects of some popular private-sector incentive schemes might be worth copying in South Africa’s public sector.

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Opinion: HIV investments remain no-brainers, but some things need to change

HIV in South Africa is not the crisis it was 20 years ago, and the country faces a growing burden of non-communicable diseases, but specific investments in HIV nevertheless continue to offer excellent value for money for governments and donors alike. As people gather for the 2023 International AIDS Society Conference in Brisbane, Australia, Marcus Low argues that while funding for HIV interventions remains absolutely essential, it is also critical for the future of the HIV response and people living with HIV that HIV should now be better integrated with other healthcare services, especially those for diabetes and hypertension.

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Analysis: Taking a spoon to a knife fight – Is SA ready for rising obesity rates?

Experts describe rising obesity rates in South Africa as an “urgent crisis”, “a tsunami” – even an “epidemic” – that is costing lives, not to mention billions of rands. Tackling the situation warrants an action plan that is as comprehensive and cogent as the problem is dire. But does the new national strategy fit the bill? Amy Green asked several local experts.

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90-60-50: Can SA meet its diabetes targets, and would we know if we do?

Diabetes rates in South Africa are anticipated to keep rising in the coming years as the country’s health burden slowly shifts away from infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis toward non-communicable diseases. The relevant government strategy sets three key diabetes targets. Elri Voigt spoke to several local experts about these targets and South Africa’s prospects of meeting them.

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Face to Face: Professor Soraya Seedat on the ‘workings of the brain’ and the realities of psychiatry in SA

Professor Soraya Seedat is a distinguished professor and head of Stellenbosch University’s psychiatry department. She has penned several hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on psychiatric disorders, with a focus on PTSD and anxiety, particularly among children and in resource-constrained settings. Biénne Huisman sat down with her to talk about her work, what drives her, and maintaining a work-life equilibrium.

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New policies aim to integrate mental health support into HIV services

Research suggests that people living with HIV are more likely to have mental health conditions than the general population. There seems to be consensus that HIV programmes would benefit from including better mental health screening and support services. Two new policy documents – the Mental Health Policy Framework and the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB, and STIs – have a lot to say about providing such integrated services, but will they result in actual changes on the ground? Thabo Molelekwa reports.

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OPINION: 2022’s health budget decisions in review

Health budgets have the power to advance access to healthcare for millions of people in South Africa. This year, however, as the health sector and the economy recovered from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a volatile global environment, the South African government missed opportunities to provide the financial resources to protect access to healthcare for the most vulnerable. Matshidiso Lencoasa unpacks how the past year’s budget choices will affect key public health services.

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