For the past 20 years, the Rural Support Network (RSN) has aimed to advocate for better Rural Health Care development in Rural and peri-urban communities, through educating of future health care professionals in rural communities. This year we have continued to highlight the issues of rural health care and looking at how we, as students and health professionals, can do more for our communities to ensure a better future for all.
We started off our 2019/2020 term by sending representatives to the annual Rural Health conference in September 2019, held in Port Shepstone. Here, our students were able to participate in discussions around the future of Rural Health Care with other university students and health care professionals making a difference in rural communities.
This was followed by our always successful, fully-funded annual Rural Placements Programme. This programme sends students from all over the country to rural hospitals where they can engage the community in outreach activities, take part in community research, and volunteer their clinical skills for two weeks. In 2019, we placed 20 Health Sciences’ students at 4 hospitals: Mseleni (KwaZulu-Natal), Canzibe (Eastern Cape), Zithulele (Eastern Cape) and Madwaleni (Eastern Cape).
We continued to collaborate with other student-led societies, such as the Cardiac Society’s Healthy Hearts Initiative, Surgical Society’s Battle of Societies and their online podcast aimed at unpacking power, privilege and structural violence, as well as the Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights including HIV and AIDS (SCORA) #ABloodyMovement period drive and more.
Due to the pandemic and social distancing, we slowly moved our entire platform online and hosted a number of lectures that have been posted on our YouTube Channel, such as Treating a Nation by Dr Ben Gaunt, the NHI in 30 (a 4-part series on different stakeholders discussing the implications of the National Health Insurance Bill and how COVID-19 implementation had affected its implementation) and Rural Health Care amidst a Pandemic by Yenziwe Ndlovu. In this way we could continue engaging students during the national lockdown.
We also hosted some online social media awareness campaigns, such as our Nelson Mandela Day initiative and our Health Sciences Students COVID-19 Survey and Health education initiative.
Unfortunately, many of our plans for the year were curtailed due to the national lockdown, such as our annual Rural Health Awareness month and our collaboration with the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) to spread TB awareness in rural communities. However, we will continue to strive towards educating our future health professionals and advocating for Rural Health Care.
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