With a background in social work and public health, contributing positively to both the health and social well-being of the vendors has always been a dream of mine. Contributing to their social well-being has been less difficult than organising the provision of health services, which has previously seemed too complex to establish.
Recently, however, my wildest dream was realised when Sister Liz, a registered nurse and a customer of The Big Issue, reached out to me, saying that she and I shared the same vision for the vendors. A lot of work and effort ensued as Sr Liz went through her networks and contacted as many people as possible to see the realisation of our shared dream.
After all the hustle, it gives me joy to announce that we have established a working relationship with a local City of Cape Town health facility, Chapel Street Clinic in Woodstock.
The sister in charge, Sr Mjezu, and her team, have been coming to our offices monthly to administer basic health screening of the vendors, including blood pressure and sugar recordings, TB and HIV screening, family planning, condom provision pap smear opportunities.
These are key services that our vendors now have access to, with minimal effort on their part. This is
an opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment, and I believe this will improve the vendors’ quality of life. Many of them have chronic noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, while the majority are totally unaware of their health status.
Without the knowledge of one’s health status, one can’t access the necessary healthcare. This service has been valuable so far because it has brought awareness of health conditions to those who were previously unaware. As a result, after the screening some vendors have started taking medication to treat the various conditions that affect them. The clinic has been serving as a monitoring service for vendors’ health every month, for those who already know their conditions. The education they have been getting is motivation for them to take up healthier habits.
We appreciate the service offered because, instead of accessing health services only when conditions are severe, the vendors are now in the line of prevention from diseases. This in turn helps prevent the additional burden on South Africa’s already strained public health system.
The goal is to promote healthy living among the vendors and their families so they can live full lives. Good health has a positive effect on almost every aspect of our lives, and it should be given appropriate attention. We want to provide more services for the vendors, apart from health screenings, though.
We understand that long queues at clinics and expensive private medical care hinders access to health services for our vendors. They are always trying to spend more time at their pitches selling magazines and making a living instead of spending hours, sometimes days, waiting in line for health services.
Bringing these services to them will ensure they still make an income for their families while living healthier lives.