After much searching and staying at seven different places in my first two weeks in South Africa, I found a little cottage to rent on the same land as the owners – who have kindly helped me out with rides to work or the store, site seeing and inviting me to their beach house.
I am living in the city of Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province and working with the KZN Department of Health and the Office of the Premier (similar to a governor). Pietermaritzburg is about an hour west of Durban and the province borders Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland. The area boasts of a number of historic events from the train station where Gandhi was inspired to start his passive resistance movement to the capture site of Nelson Mandela.
The Premier’s office coordinates all activities, projects and programs related to HIV/AIDS while the Department of Health focuses on treating the disease and the medical side of it. Given my interest in health promotion and community health workers, it is the perfect location for me — when I hear about something that is really interesting, like the work with the integrated wellness centers at truck stops, I have the opportunity to work on these projects as well. And, thanks to some interns here from the University of Natal I am also learning what streets I shouldn’t use as short cuts on my walk home to where to find the best pizza.
South Africa is currently piloting a National Health Insurance plan that is based on re-engineering the primary health care system to focus on community health care and preventative medicine. Three provinces in KZN are piloting the program. My role is to document the process in the Umgungundlovu district through interviewing key stakeholders and accompanying clinicians and health care workers in the field. This project ties in to the delegation’s work in improving maternal and child health indicators as well management leadership training.