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End the duopoly

South Africans must be healthier for universal healthcare to succeed

People exercising in Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Achieving a healthy population isn’t easy for any country – rich or poor. One of the approaches that’s gained traction over the past two decades is preventative care through health promotion . Simply put, health promotion means keeping people healthy. This is seen as particularly useful in developing countries, where levels of preventable noncommunicable diseases are high, the resources to treat disease are scarce and the cost of treating sick people is often higher than programmes to keep people healthy.

The health promotion approach has two areas of focus. One is preventing disease through activities like health education messaging, screening and testing for conditions. The other is addressing the upstream drivers and causes of poor health. These include social and economic factors such as poverty and unemployment. They also include smoking, excessive drinking, low levels of exercise, poor diet, sub-standard living conditions, gender-based violence and mental illness.

The health promotion approach aims to change people’s behaviour and choices. But it is not enough just to tell an individual how to be healthy: people need support and social structures to promote, sustain and maintain healthy choices.

A number of countries have successfully adopted this […]

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