Civil society activism for the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases in South Africa: implications for policy and practice
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Various studies suggest that in the absence of HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the
leading causes of mortality among adults in many African countries. In South Africa NCDs are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for adults over the age of 40 years with cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of mortality. Although civil society organisations have been contributing to public health for many years, they have become more prominent in recent years, growing in scale and influence and having profound impacts on health policy and issues (WHO 2001). Indeed, the manner in which the state responds to these changes, and the extent to which civil society actors are recognized and included in health policies and programmes, are some of the critical factors determining the course of public health today (WHO 2001). In South Africa, civil society activism around HIV and AIDS has yielded remarkable results in gaining access to treatment in the country. Much less is known, however, about civil society activism and its role in improving or ensuring access to treatment for major diseases and health conditions that lead to mortality in South Africa. Drawing on qualitative findings among civil society organisations dealing with the NCDs in South Africa, this paper presents findings on the strategies used by such organisations in enabling access to prevention and treatment of NCDs. The findings suggest civil society organisations use a range of strategies in the prevention and treatment
of NCDs. The effectiveness of the strategies used also varies.