JuPHASA Student Symposium 2015: Youth and Public Health

The 2015 JuPHASA Student Symposium kicked off with an inspiring address by Dr Prinitha Pillay about the role of youth in health advocacy. Dr Pillay is currently working at the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP). The RHAP is a partnership between Wits Centre for Rural Health (WCRH), the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA) and SECTION27. RHAP’s vision is “Rural Health – Key to a Healthy Nation”. They aim to be a leading resource in the field of rural health advocacy that facilitates the translation of rural health needs and health care solutions into policy and decision-making.

One of the key take home messages from Dr Pillay was that healthcare workers are the natural attorneys of the poor. To be able to advocate for the patients, one must know the legal framework, which means reading, and applying, the constitution. It’s also about understanding what advocacy is, and how to report incidents that is a danger to public health safety. A definition given by Dr Pillay about advocacy: (1) it is action oriented, (2) it is based on cause / principle, and (3) it’s about change and agency.

Dr Pillay finished the keynote address by encouraging the youth to work with others when advocating for public health; working with already existing organizations, like the Stop Stock Outs Project (SSP), the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), RHAP, Section 27 etc., and colleagues. There is power to be found in numbers.

After the keynote address, students where sharing their research in public health with the audience, through poster and oral presentations. Topics included: rodent infestation; primary health care; non-communicable diseases; healthcare workers; prebiotic activity of edible plants; health system strengthening; childhood obesity; availability of food; voluntary medical male circumcision; community oriented primary care; problem-based learning; and patient satisfaction.

After lunch, a panel debate was conducted about the job prospects for young public health professionals. Members of the panel debate included:

  • Mr Lusizo Ratya: National Department of Health
  • Ms Sasha Stevenson: Section27
  • Dr Seymour Wiliams: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, South Africa
  • Prof Shinga Feresu: University of Pretoria
  • Dr Stephen Knight: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Take home messages from the panel debate included:

  • There is a need to define the roles and differences between public health professionals and public funded professionals.
  • Working in public health is often challenging. The public health sector is constantly changing. You need to adapt to this change and take the needs of the population into account.
  • There is a lack of public health posts within South Africa, and there is a need to have a body to register with as a public health professional.
  • There are both macro and micro issues relating to public health jobs.
    • Macro – Economy, politics, clinical medicine versus public health, educational standards.
    • Micro – Consumer satisfaction, job satisfaction, personal worth.
  • There is job satisfaction to be found in public health, even though it is a challenging profession to work in.

The speeches made by Sasha Stevenson and Dr Seymour Williams can be found on the JuPHASA group on Facebook.

Elections were held for the new JuPHASA Executive Committee (JEC). The 2015/16 JEC are:

  • President: Nsovo Mayimele
  • Vice-President: Inge Kleynhans
  • Secretary: André van Zyl
  • Public Relations Officer: Janine Bezuidenhoudt
  • Treasurer: Melikhaya Soboyisi
  • Campus Coordinator: Lorraine Molepo

For JEC member profiles, more information about JuPHASA and for public health updates: like the JuPHASA page on Facebook  and follow JuPHASA on Twitter @JuPHASA.

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