SA's health system is leaving youth behind – SA Health Review

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The latest SA Health Review found that South Africa’s health system is at risk of leaving the youth behind as it moves towards universal health coverage, says a Health-e News. Despite the youth accounting for a third of the country’s population, according to Statistics South Africa, healthcare services are not designed to cater to their needs, the research shows.

The report states that the public health system needs to strengthen in a variety of ways to meet the unique needs of young people. This includes defining and monitoring indicators of universal health coverage, as well as keeping track of the quality of services that young people receive from public facilities. To achieve this, the research suggests increasing capacity of health workers to provide youth-friendly services.

The review also states that universal healthcare for young people at primary healthcare level should focus on screening and early detection of risk factors in order to avert long-term health consequences in adulthood. This early intervention is a step towards preventing and promoting healthy behaviours such as contraceptive access and use, which is likely to reduce morbidity and mortality among adolescents.

Adolescent girls and young women are one of the most vulnerable groups to HIV infection, according to the latest national HIV plan. About 2 000 young women between the ages of 15 and 25 are infected with the virus every week. This makes prevention of HIV in women and girls of this age group a priority.

Experts recommend a five-stage approach towards decreasing risk behaviour amongst young women. This includes helping them create their own well-informed opinions on what good sexual practices are, using their experience to form their own rules for relationship and sexual health management, and being firm in their own rules around partners and sex lives.

The researchers recommend that HIV prevention strategies should be aligned with relationship goals of girls and young women, and for communication around HIV prevention to be relatable and framed around how to balance relationships and sexual health.

Full Health-e News report

SA Health Review chapter

SA Health Review chapter

National HIV Plan

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