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AFRICAN HEALTH EXPERIENCE – 2007

I arrived in Cape Town at 8:10pm (11:10am Pacific time) on May 22nd, Tuesday, with the rest of the Delegates on Nursing. Once we arrived at Cape Town Lodge (our hotel) we were ushered in to the dining area for a small dinner and then debriefed on the upcoming events for the following day. Later, all of the delegates retired to their respective rooms to rest before our 6:00am wakeup call for breakfast. By 8:30am, orientation began.

8:30 am
Our Faculty Advisors, Lillian Barron and Margaret Bassett, discussed the educational goals, learning objectives and educational outcomes of the International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP). The success of the delegates experiencing a life changing outlook on life and humanity as a whole is primal.

Some of the educational goals of ISLP are to educate scholars to make an intelligent decision about future careers in nursing, examine various career paths in the field, and to further develop critical leadership skills such as communication, decision making and goal setting.

The learning objectives are to explore health issues afflicting the people of South Africa (i.e. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malnutrition in children, and other difficulties), to understand the role of private and public health care, and to observe facilities where social, financial, and emotional responsibilities of nursing are extended.

As far as the educational outcomes, ISLP would like the scholars to receive from the program an appreciation for the nursing field, assess and appreciate the challenges of diverse environments and cultures, explore the importance of teamwork as demonstrated by the nurses in the South African Healthcare System, and use the existing knowledge given to interpret information and create our own hypotheses.

12:00pm

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By noon, we were visited by Dr. Mark Blecher, whom came to discuss the structure of the South African Healthcare System and the disease burden they are facing. He stated that the public sector of health service is free to all citizens; however this sector is mainly comprised of the poor who can not afford adequate healthcare. The private sector is funded mainly by private health insurance. This sector mainly includes the privileged and the wealthy.

During the discussion of the disease burden, Dr. Blecher pointed out some of the health issues facing South Africa: diseases of poverty & under-development (gastro-pneumonia) used a graph to demonstrate, increase in lifestyle diseases (heart disease, diabetes), HIV/AIDS (all time high and the most difficult to control), and health indicators are below par for this middle income country (lifespan sharply decreases between 40-50 years of age).

However, the most startling statistic mentioned by Dr. Blecher is the increase in disease mortality rates between 1997 to 2004 rose 367% amongst women. There are various factors, but the main cause is AIDS.

Another problem facing South Africa is tuberculosis. There are a high number of reported cases which is often a common indicator for HIV/AIDS.

2:20pm
Later in the afternoon I traveled with other Delegates on Nursing to a local clinic called Tafelsig located in Western Cape, which is one of nine provinces in South Africa. There we were greeted by Melissa the Faculty Manager.

All of the services and medications of Tafelsig Clinic are free and open to the public. They are open Monday through Friday; closed on the weekends and holidays. The usual staff includes two doctors in the morning and two doctors in the evening, nine nurses, a pharmacy, and one counselor.

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On a typical day the clinic will see 350-400 patients. The cases vary from child healthcare, prenatal, HIV/AIDS treatment and counseling, sexual disease treatment, other chronic diseases, drug abuse (methamphetamine use is on the rise with children as young as 8 years old), etc.

Tafelsig Clinic is considered to be a public sector health service. As I mentioned earlier, this type of health care is mainly acquired by impoverished people of South Africa who can not afford private healthcare. Clinics, such as Tafelsig in the Western Cape Province are their only option.

On Thursday, May 24th, we will discuss the future of nursing and the training and preparation needed to serve the community. Until then…. Imagine a world without disease or sickness. Now, be the change…..

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