Swedish Health Minister meeting

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Health

28 October 2004
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Meeting report

HEALTH PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE AND SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
29 October 2004
SWEDISH HEALTH MINISTER MEETING

Chairperson:
Ms Joyce Masilo (ANC, Social Services Select Committee)

Documents handed out:
None

SUMMARY
The Swedish Health Minister briefed Members about his country's state of public health. South Africa's Deputy Health Minister, Ms N Madlala-Routledge, also spoke about South African health issues. Members raised concerns around children and women abuse, HIV/AIDS awareness programmes, and Sweden's health tax system.

MINUTES

Swedish Health Minister's briefing
The Swedish Health Minister, Mr Morgan Johnson, reported that there had been a meeting between President Thabo Mbeki and the Swedish Prime Minister, where bilateral deals had been set up. This visit was one of the outcomes of that meeting.

The Swedish government had very good co-operation with Swedish industries, and their tertiary education institutions conducted research that had contributed to government. Such co-operations were important and could be more worthwhile in South Africa.

Mr Johnson continued that one of his tasks was to build up structures to prevent sexual and domestic violence. The system also dealt with sheltering women subjected to violence. Strengthening the legislation and having tougher sanctions had helped in combating violence. Much had also been done to help women to report abuse.

Sweden had a 'Social Welfare System'. Public services were of high quality and were accessed at lower and sometimes no cost. Everyone was entitled to an equal health system that kept communities together. There were provincial programmes dealing with lifestyle-connected programmes. There was a tough legislation on advertisements and high taxes dealing with the sale of tobacco products. Perhaps this was why Sweden had the lowest number of smokers in the world. The Swedish government had also outlined policies regarding alcohol sales. Obesity was another problem in Sweden, and there were plans to encourage people to eat better and exercise.

In an earlier dialogue between the South African Health Ministry and the Swedish delegation, Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had referred to the legislation of non-communicable diseases, and how to assist people to live a healthy lifestyle. South Africa experienced huge challenges in delivering health care for all, and much could be gained through co-operation with Sweden.

Discussion

Mr S Njikalanga (ANC) asked about the Swedish situation with regards to rural versus urban health facilities.

Mr Johnson said although their health care system was highly developed in the rural areas, more people were moving into cities. Sweden had avoided labelling taxes as it would be a problem to move money from one sector to the other. Although health facilities did use some herbal medicines, many people used alternative medicines.

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) commented that South Africa's legislation was strong regarding the problems of women with HIV/AIDS. The '16 days of Activism Campaign against Women Abuse', aimed to assist women to 'break the silence' of stigma and denial. She asked about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Sweden.

Mr Johnson commended that campaign, and added his shock at the high rate of rapes. The Swedish authorities had been relatively open about sexual matters and the health care system made it possible to deal with HIV/AIDS adequately. Sweden treated about 300 AIDS cases a year, but the surrounding region had many more cases. There were still problems with the stigmatisation of HIV/AIDS.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) asked whether beneficial medical technologies could be shared with South Africa to capacitate health professionals. She also enquired about the Swedish situation regarding maternal, child and women's health, as well as reproductive health.

Mr Johnson replied that pregnant women were closely monitored by a primary health care. The maternal system might be the reason Sweden had the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. In terms of technology, Sweden had a number of useful devices that could be used by South Africa. Research and technology development would allow the country to do more for health care.

The meeting was adjourned

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