September 17, 2012

Parting Thoughts from South Africa

Testing a community well during household 
visits with a community care giver (CCG) 
Heather Fosburgh,
2012 GHLI Fellow

My final weeks in South Africa were spent on site visits documenting the piloting of the National Health Insurance initiative. This work allowed me to see the many different facets of the South African health care system and two things in particular that stood out to me: First, while talking with the pharmacy staff at the anti-retroviral clinic in the district hospital, I learned they filled an average of 500 prescriptions a day. While you cannot visit, work or live in South Africa without being constantly reminded of the HIV and AIDS crisis, it took standing inside the pharmacy looking at the large queue of people waiting for prescriptions to fully comprehend the volume of people affected.

Second, I realized the extensive role of the community care givers (CCGs). Previously called community health workers, it took only a few household visits to see why these invaluable community members were considered care givers. While these women do cover all aspects of community health, they also serve as quasi social workers, advocates, and administrators. With the CCG, donned in her winter coat and me, woefully underdressed for the chilly weather, we went from house to house where she knew all of the details of the families under her prevue. It was very impressive.

Overall, when reflecting about my time in South Africa, I think the most notable aspect of my experience was the constant excitement I felt being involved in public health work. A year ago, I was enthusiastic but also nervous embarking on the MPH program as I was leaving my successful career to essentially start over. Having been out of school of a number of years, I encountered some academic challenges I had not anticipated. Sometimes I wondered if I had made the right decision. However, my time in South Africa reinforced that I had made the right decision and I cannot wait to start a career in global health.

Picture caption: 

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