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SA has resources to make universal health a reality: The Elders

The Elders delegation was led by the former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland and the former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos.

Picture: Unsplash.com

CAPE TOWN - South Africa has the resources and financial muscle to make universal health coverage a reality.

This is according to The Elders, who briefed Members of Parliament on Tuesday.

The Elders delegation was led by the former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland and the former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos.

Brundtland said there were a number of examples of countries in a similar position as South Africa who have successfully implemented universal health coverage.

Brundtland is a former director-general of the World Health Organisation and has experience in public healthcare reforms.

Brundtland said: “But there are also other examples even more recent, with regard to you carrying out more of those reforms with countries that have the same economic development as South Africa, like Thailand. We have visited Thailand and looked at their system.”

She called on the South African government to prioritise universal healthcare as this had a direct link to a country’s economic development.

“It’s a fact that investing in health creates economic growth. This is not just a statement you can say as a politician. We have a lot of evidence of scientific analysis that this is the case.”

The Elders also said investing in National Health Insurance (NHI) and universal healthcare would go a long way in improving South Africa's economy.

Brundtland said it might be a little late in the day for South Africa to start implementing NHI, but has urged the country to move ahead with universal healthcare.

She said greater access and better-quality healthcare transcended just having a healthy population and goes a long way to improving a country’s economic prospects.

“It is an investment in the people; health is an investment in the people and it’s an investment in prosperity and an investment in economic prosperity.”

The Elders concluded their visit to South Africa after meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa where they supported the country’s efforts on NHI.

It will now be up to MPs to ensure the NHI Bill is adopted and passed before it becomes a reality.