Telemedicine brings hope to South African women
The Impilo Initiative is being hailed as the changemaker as it plans to provide telemedicine services for women in South Africa. Women and girls in rural South Africa will have access to much-needed healthcare services at the touch of a button.
Women and children in rural areas of South Africa are notoriously unable to access medical care when they need it. Yet Africa has the highest rate of adolescent pregnancies and 13.2 percent maternal mortality rate. Impilo Initiative, a not for profit organization dedicated to the healthcare education of girls and women in rural areas of the country, has partnered with some of the top telemedicine platforms, general physicians and specialists around the country to provide remote diagnosis and advice on female health to rural communities.
According to the organization, healthcare for women and girls in South Africa is “desperately in need of improvement.” Economic research and analysis firm Econex produced a report in 2016 that revealed South Africa dismally falls short behind most other countries in the doctor to patient ratio.
The country has only 60 doctors per 100,000 people, while the world average is 152. Private hospitals are also understaffed without sufficient qualified doctors.
Meanwhile, South Africa continues to record high rates of mortality in women during pregnancy and in kids younger than five. The country sees 50,000 new cases of HIV in the 15-19 age group every year. There are over 7 million South Africans living with HIV.
Impilo Initiative believes that education by a qualified professional will help many women and girls take their healthcare into their own hands. Women and girls in rural areas don’t receive timely and adequate healthcare because they often have to travel long distances to reach the nearest medical clinic.
The organization wants to help them understand their options and their rights without having to travel and to be able to detect illnesses early so that they can be treated more effectively.
Telemedicine has disrupted traditional medicine around the world. Many people believe this revolutionary technology is the future of healthcare that, along with wearable sensors, predictive diagnosis and digital apps will change how people take care of their health. Many digital devices like iPads can be converted into telehealth devices with the help of apps and cameras.
Now, with the initiative of the non-profit, women in South Africa’s rural communities too will have access to donated iPads, tablets, smartphones. The Impilo Initiative is in the process of implementing these devices and setting up an educational platform to offer knowledge and advice on female health and sexual health.
Women and kids will be able to access remote consultations with healthcare professionals free of cost. Doctors will provide medical assistance from their devices, which will keep consulting fees down. The focus will be on early diagnosis so that women can be taught to understand their symptoms while there is still time for treatment.
These rural telemedicine centres will also be supported by “Caretakers” or women who will help to run things smoothly and to encourage women to use the telemedicine setups and seek appointments for medical advice.
According to the founder of Impilo Organization Elizabeth van Rooyen, “Equipping women with advanced digital healthcare and education will allow them to take responsibility for their health – a lack of which is the root of so many issues in third world countries.”
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