Wellness Mobiles for School Health rolling out for a healthier Western Cape

Theuns Botha, MPP and Debbie Schafer, MPP

Western Cape Government Ministers of Health and Education

Western Cape Minister of Health Theuns Botha and Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer visited one of our provincial government’s Wellness Mobiles for School Health at Delft Primary school.

The Wellness Mobiles started being  rolled out to schools across the province  this month in order to screen Grade R and Grade 1 learners to identify  vision, speech, hearing or skin problems as well as to assess their motor skills, mental health, oral health and test them for Tuberculosis (TB).

The fleet of five state-of-the-art wellness mobiles is a flagship project for the Western Cape Government and a demonstration of the provincial departments of Education and Health working Better Together. The project is the first in which the two departments are putting life into the Integrated School Health Programme.

The Wellness Mobiles for School Health will visit schools across the province, particularly in poor and rural areas in order to screen Grade R and Grade 1 learners for conditions that require medical and dental intervention. The preventative dental care that will be provided by this service will significantly reduce dental cavities among children.

Each Wellness Mobile for School Health includes:

  • a consultation room where general health screening can be performed. This includes a physical assessment, assessment of gross motor skills, height and weight, ear, nose and throat examination, screening for TB symptoms and other psycho-social issues.
  • a dental unit section for screening for oral health and rendering of dental and oral hygiene services; and
  • an optometry unit, for the testing of eyesight in order to provide  learners with spectacles if needed.

These units were selected to be included in the Wellness Mobiles after it was found that many young learners living in poor areas did not have access to these health services.  The advantage of this one-stop health service is that learners, who are identified as needing spectacles and dental care, will now be attended to on the spot.

Each Wellness Mobile for School Health is staffed by a school nurse, an optometrist and a dentist. The initial focus of the roll out of this service is Grade R and Grade 1 learners in the poorest Quintile 1 and 2 schools. We are also focusing on schools situated in areas where it is most challenging for parents to access dentists and optometrists. We believe that ensuring that poor learners have proper access to health services, including spectacles and dental care, will also have a positive effect on education outcomes in the province.

Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: “We are very proud that Dischem is our first sponsor of this ground-breaking project. Finally we are able to bring healthcare to schools using state-of-the art technology, in smart vehicles, with equipment of the highest standard.  For example, the optometrist will use digital technology which transmits the readings of the child’s visual status electronically to the laboratory that manufactures the spectacles, and the spectacles will be delivered a week later. “The project has been designed to reduce the barriers to learning caused by health problems such as poor eyesight and dental cavities.”

”We have discovered that there are a number of children who have simple health problems, such as bad eyesight, that are often left undetected and which negatively affect their schoolwork.  It is a tragedy if the reason people cannot read is not because they do not have the ability, but because they cannot see properly.  The reasons that these issues are not detected often relate to the fact that the parents are not able to afford screening such as this.  The mobile clinics will make a huge contribution in addressing this problem” said Schäfer

The 10-year contract for this service was awarded to Mobile Satellite Technologies, a company that specialises in the provision of mobile clinic services. The vehicles are supplied with solar power and generators and carry their own water supply. Plans for waste water and medical waste management have also been included in the mobiles. The vehicles are also equipped with air-conditioning, a kitchenette and toilet facilities.

Minister Botha and Minister Schäfer will visit similar Wellness Mobiles that are rolling to schools on the West Coast, Overberg and Winelands over the next few weeks.