By Sarah Paterson, Media Liaison Representative, Rotary Action Group for Family Health and AIDS Prevention, and member of the Rotary Club of Hilton and Howick, South Africa
More than half of the world’s population still lack access to affordable healthcare. Take a moment to let that sink in. Chilling, isn’t it?
This may be accepted fact, but that does not mean it is acceptable. When people are unable to access healthcare, it results in an increase in the burden of disease. This is a measure of population health that calculates the gap between the ideal of living to old age in good health and the current situation where the average lifespan is shortened by illness, injury, disability and premature death. A high burden of disease impacts economic productivity and can deplete a country’s labor force, thereby affecting its GDP and having ripple effects through its economy and socio-economic landscape.
Rotary and Rotaract members join the Rotary Action Group for Family Health and AIDS Prevention (RFHA) to lead the charge to reduce the burden of disease in their communities and across the world!
RFHA’s signature program, Rotary Family Health Days, provides free health services to millions of people and is present in 10, soon to be 11, African and Southeast Asian countries. The program uses massive public/private partnerships to mobilize not only Rotary and Rotaract clubs and their members, but also government departments, civil society, the media, other non-profits and business in support of the annual campaign.
RFHA members identify and build relationships with the community project partners and
Professional monitoring, evaluation and data collection have provided valuable insight into achieved outcomes and the overall effectiveness of Rotary Family Health Days. The reputation and influence of the Rotary brand has also contributed tremendously to the success of this project. More than 2.5 million people have been served by the program and this number grows significantly each year!
Many of this year’s campaigns have been postponed due to social distancing requirements to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, as COVID-19 restrictions eased, countries like Nigeria were able to host Rotary Family Health Days and follow safety protocols while delivering health services. The West African region, led by Past RFHA Director and Advisor, Past District Governor Olugbemiga Olowu, has hosted health days in Benin, Togo, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria this year.
In South Africa, RFHA’s work and developed public/private partnerships were recognized at a commemoration webinar on 14 October. The webinar highlighted partnerships and the invaluable support of Rotary members. The webinar was officiated by the National Minister of Health Dr. Zewli Mkhize. Keynote speakers included Rotary International President-elect Shekhar Mehta, Deputy Minister of Health Joe Phaahla, Dr. Iain Barton of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Dr. John Blandford, Country Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and CEO of RFHA Inc, Sue Paget. More than 32,000 people watched the virtual event.
In early 2021, Rotary Family Health Days will have its inaugural launch in Bangladesh as well as a campaign in India, where more than 500,000 people were served in 2016-17.