South African Healthcare needs Diversity and Inclusion

Moderator: Vanessa Carter
Date: 3 July 2019
20:30 – 21:30 (SAST)
How to participate

Facebook event reminder

Join us for a 60-minute Twitter chat on the 3rd of July between 20:30-21:30 SAST. Everyone is welcome to participate during the Q&A session including doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, policymakers, patients, academics, pharma, medical educators, students, payers, IT developers, journalists, data scientists, civil society, NPO’s, researchers, etc. both locally and globally. The transcript will be recorded and made publicly available afterwards by Symplur Analytics.


20:30: 5-minute introductions and welcome. Questions start thereafter.

T1: What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?
T2: What can we gain from diversity and inclusion in the health sector?
T3: How could diversity and inclusion benefit innovation?
T4: What can be done to improve diversity and inclusion?
T5: How can digital technology play a role in improving diversity and inclusion in health?

21:30: CLOSING (CT): What other thoughts would you like to add?

Start your answers with T1, T2, T3, T4 or CT
 for transcript purposes.
Answer only after the moderator prompts. Questions will be prompted every 10 minutes, but keep answers coming using the relevant T and number. Both panel guests and the public are encouraged to answer. Use the #hcsmSA hashtag in all your tweets so that you are visible to others in the chat and on the transcript.


Considering Diversity and Inclusion for Healthcare Innovation in South Africa

According to most descriptions of diversity and inclusion, diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin and political beliefs. Whereas, inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognised. An inclusive economy promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of all its members. [1]

Diversity and inclusion are currently a worldwide topic of interest, especially as we become increasingly more globalised and interconnected through technology. One of the fundamental barriers to achieving diversity and inclusion will be learning to look beyond our labels and to breakdown stereotypes. We are all different. For the most part, I can describe my personal narrative as a partially blind, middle-aged South African white woman who has a facial difference, (yes, a facial disfigurement is a disability), with no higher education degree and who is also a single mother to an Autistic child. That probably sounds like a mouthful of problems to a whole lot of people, but actually, it’s a few relatively common labels that define me in a very segregated society. My labels have neatly packaged me into a collection of boxes and they’ve had a substantial impact on not only my employability and pay scale but also on the expectations of what other people think I can add to society and their organisation. Being a woman on its own, means I remain under-represented in most countries with the exception of Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden according to the 2018 World Economic Forum (WEF) annual Global Gender Gap Report [2]. Further to this, being partially-blind and disfigured, I also remain under-represented and possibly unemployable according to The UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development 2018 [3] as does my son who has Autism.

The World Bank estimates that one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Persons with disabilities are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment and higher poverty rates. Barriers to full social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities include inaccessible physical environments and transportation, the unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, non-adapted means of communication, gaps in service delivery, and discriminatory prejudice and stigma in society. [4] There are many different types of disabilities such as intellectual, physical, sensory, and mental illness. Some disabilities are visible whilst others are not, yet the media has often only portrayed disability with the symbol of a wheelchair. Various disability rights may also be less clearly defined, for example, HIV or mental health conditions. In both cases due to a lack of social empathy and acceptance, this can leave a patient not seeking out treatment due to stigma.

Another broad area of diversity and inclusion recognises the LGBTI community, which is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex patients who often face difficulties in accessing appropriate health, wellness and prevention services due to discrimination [5]. Disparities between the LGBTI population in comparison to the heterosexual community can include inequality in the workplace and health insurance sectors as well as the lack of competent care due to negligible LGBTI health training in medical schools [6]. This inequality within our systems has also contributed largely to a lack of data being available for population health researchers because sexual orientation is often under-reported [7]. A World Bank Report [8] recently ranked South Africa as the most unequal nation in the world. The source of the inequality that plagues South Africa is multifaceted. Unemployment, poor access to education, poverty and a collapsing public health system all play a role. To help address this crisis, local NPO’s like INMED is using school-based programs to promote innovation and empowerment amongst our young children, as are academic institutions like the University of Cape Town’s Bertha Centre who focus on social innovation in all communities, especially those who are neglected.

Building and fostering a diversity and inclusion strategy is a catalyst for success and a foundation for digital health innovation. Innovation doesn’t thrive where people agree, but rather where everyone builds on top of each other’s different ideas and perspectives to create an inclusive environment. Nowhere has this been more evident in healthcare than in innovative programs around the world like the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Digital Innovation Hub or the Merck China Innovation Hubs who are co-creating solutions together with patients and other stakeholders by including them in the design process. Breaking down this hierarchy between everyone to design innovative solutions is enabling them to identify and close gaps more efficiently. In addition, co-created digital solutions are more likely to address the needs of the end-users, therefore, improving the quality of data they collect. Health reform using digital innovation widens our choices as a patient because even though we might feel we have limited access to specialists in our public health system right now in South Africa, technology is in the process of addressing that. One particularly good example is telemedicine which will provide us with a global medical professional network, another is using translation tools, such as those we have become accustomed to on Google Translate and other sites. Many of those translation tools are now also focusing on becoming disability and culturally-friendly. Of course, there are many digital divides like the high cost of data to overcome first, but connecting our health system to the rest of the world is imperative.

Like many other countries around the world, South Africa has multiple barriers to tackle before we truly realise and live out what diversity and inclusion means. Focusing solely on our public health system as we evolve towards e-Health, these goals are both equally a priority that we need to try to work towards and talk about openly to achieve sustainable development and health for all. Beating some of the world’s deadliest diseases we all face now together like antimicrobial resistance, rare diseases, cancer, obesity, HIV/AIDS, TB, heart disease and mental health conditions can only ever be achieved by tearing down these walls of difference that separate us.

Health Hashtags:

Healthcare Social Media (hcsm) trending hashtags related to Health Innovation:
#HealthInnovation, #HealthforAll, #HealthReform



Panel Guests:
The chat session is open to everyone to participate, however, our panel experts bring a unique set of perspectives relating to the topic.

Ntsoaki Phali – @MsPhali
Soweto-born Ntsoaki is a multi-business award-winning visionary who established Beyond Ability Talent Solutions, a disability recruitment agency which has placed over 5500 career seekers with a disability into economic opportunities over the past 9 years. As a human resource and training graduate, she is also a mother of one, as well as a board member for the South African Council for Entrepreneurs. A certified neuro-linguistic programming life coach she further has mentored close to over 800 startups as well as spoken to various audiences and large media groups including Radio 702, the BBC, ENCA and SAFM. Ntsoaki is also chief editor of the soon to be Inclusive SA magazine which will focus on diversity and inclusion issues faced both by employees and employers in South Africa.

Thabo Makama – @makama_thabo
Thabo is a well-rounded CEO of TWKB Talent Centric, which is a strategic Advisory company that renders services to corporate organizations. 

Charlene Sunkel – @CharleneSunkel
Ms Sunkel is a global voice for the rights of people with mental health conditions / lived experience. She’s been working in the field of mental health, advocacy and human rights since 2003. She authored several papers from a lived experience perspective published in well renowned international journals. She has written and produced theatre plays and a short feature film on mental disorders – to raise public awareness. Ms Sunkel had been involved in the review and drafting of various policies and legislation in South Africa and provided technical assistance to international mental health-related reports and documents. She serves on a number of national and international boards and committees, including: Presidential Working Group on Disability; Ministerial Advisory Committee on Mental Health; Rural Mental Health Campaign; Editorial Advisory Board of the Lancet Psychiatry; Human Rights in Mental Health FGIP; Time To Change Global Governance Group; citiesRISE; WHO Civil Society Working Group on NCDs; Global Mental Health Blueprint Group; Countdown Mental Health, amongst others. Ms Sunkel is the Principal Coordinator for the Movement for Global Mental Health. She is the Founder/ CEO of the Global Mental Health Peer Network which was officially launched at the 5th Global Mental Health Summit in 2018. She is also a faculty member of the Indian Law College as a guest lecturer for the International Diploma in Mental Health, Human Rights and Law. Ms Sunkel was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1991 where her journey exposed the dire state of mental health care and services and human rights violations – this journey led to her passion for mental health advocacy and human rights. She received a number of national and international awards for her work, with the latest award for Outstanding Achievement in Mental Health from the Swiss Foundation and the World Health Organisation.

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng – @drtlaleng
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng is a medical doctor, activist, speaker and columnist. She is the Country Co-Lead Doctor for Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) South Africa. The GDC is an international network of physician-advocates who advocate for reproductive rights and access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe abortion and contraception. She also runs a reproductive health clinic in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa. As a medical practitioner, Dr Mofokeng believes in realizing the reproductive health rights of women. She is a champion of sexual health and reproductive justice, Dr Mofokeng also established a youth-friendly clinic in Matatiele, in the Eastern Cape while she was still studying in medical school.

David John Kerr – @DJKerr88
David John Kerr is a Cloud Technology Specialist, having worked across Private Sector companies such as AWS and Microsoft and Public Sector entities such as NHS across the UK, along with a number of not-for-profit organisations, has always focused on the shift from ‘what is the matter with you?’ to ‘What matters to you?’

Deirdré Gower – @DeirdreGower
Deirdré wears a few hats, most of which bear the South African outdoors on their brim. She is the founder of the Warrior On Wheels Foundation, an NPO focused on giving children with disabilities a variety of adventure experiences while forging partnerships in the tourism industry to promote accessibility for all. She is also the founder of Accessible South Africa, an online platform showcasing universally accessible tourism in South Africa. Deirdré is also a horse trail guide in a 240ha wildlife sanctuary, a website designer, blogger and traveller.

Unathi Sihlahla – @INMEDSA
Unathi Sihlahla is the Programmes Director of INMED South Africa, an in-country affiliate of international humanitarian development NGO INMED Partnerships for Children. In this role, he leads a multidisciplinary team to identify development
opportunities and mobilize public/private-sector partnerships to provide health, nutrition and socio-economic initiatives for vulnerable populations. With a Master of Social Change and Development degree as well as a Bachelor of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development degree, Mr Sihlahla is a noted expert at leveraging adaptive agriculture to help break complex cycles of poverty and build climate-change resilience for individuals with disabilities, women, youth and smallholder farmers in distressed communities.

Rehab For All – @RehabforAllSA
Rehab For All is a social development platform that aims to connect stakeholders towards creating a vibrant, supportive and innovative ecosystem around People With Disabilities in South Africa. It was founded by Nabeela Laher, a social innovation consultant and Physiotherapist for children with disabilities, following her experiences working across the healthcare and rehabilitation sector.

TB HIV Care is a registered non-profit organisation in South Africa that puts integrated care at the heart of responding to TB, HIV and other major diseases. They work to prevent, find and treat HIV and TB in South Africa as well as target interventions that address the needs of populations at risk such as inmates, sex workers and people who inject drugs.

Kristina Andreas – @its_kristina_za

Muzi Zuma – @Muzi_Z
Muzi Zuma is a 27-year-old androgynous spokesperson for Freedom Of Expression and Individuality. He has also fronted the 2010 World Cup, Coca-Cola, Nicknax & Supersport. He’s made cameo appearances in Rhythm City & Generations: The Legacy. He is Africa’s Make-Up Artistry pioneer who’s portfolio includes Lalha Hathaway (Grammy Award recipient) Nigeria’s Seyi Shay, & Wizkid, Mozambique’s Liizha James, SAs Terry Pheto, Mampho Brescia, Bonang Matheba, DJ Zinhle, Thembi Seete, Nomzamo Mbatha & Jessica Nkosi, to name a few.  He has voiced UJFM 95.4 #TrendsFastForward. He was also #MissSimplyBlue2014 & the #MissDragSA2017 1st Princess. Muzi Zuma is also the host & TV Presenter for #BeatonMoja Love TV channel 157. A Proud Activist and Ambassador of TB HIV Care, he is also a finalist for Miss Gay RSA 2019.

Patricia F. Anderson – @PFAnderson 
Patricia F. Anderson is the Emerging Technologies Informationist at the Taubman Health Sciences Library, University of Michigan — Ann Arbor. In this position she has made apps, comics, a video game; taught workshops and built a library collection (with alien and animal costumes!) in a virtual world; 3D printed cool stuff, and soldered chips on circuit boards, which officially makes this the coolest job ever. Her job lets her hangout with the microbiome researchers, precision medicine folk, and get to talk about her explorations in personal genomics. She publishes on social media (especially in cancer communities), online health and search engines, wearables, text mining and tech mining (which are different things), textual analysis, and systematic reviews. In other words, she happily revels in geekery of many sorts.

Alan Thomas – @Ataxia_and_Me
Alan Thomas is a patient engagement advocate for rare diseases in general and Ataxia in particular. He is known as the ‘rare disease warrior’ and, as a patient with a ‘life-limiting’ rare disease, he can convey the patient engagement message from his point of view in all issues regarding the wellbeing of patients. Alan has established a patient-driven and focused patient group and campaigns at many levels, including patient forums, local and regional health boards, Welsh/UK government organisations, as well as taking part in many global conferences, in person or via the internet. Ataxia means ‘lack of order’. People with ataxia have problems with movement, balance and speech. Alan and Ataxia and Me’s mission is to bring some order to the lack of order.

Rene Sparks – @Rene_Sparks
Rene is a Clinical Manager at the Networking HIV/AIDS Community of South Africa (NACOSA), a registered nurse and a Masters in Public Health student. She is passionate about making an impact in South African health and civil society and is involved in various public and private health programmes including primary healthcare training, clinical support and community systems strengthening.

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