Short Report

School-based healthcare services in Cape Town, South Africa: When there’s a will, there’s a way

Nadia Ahmed, Carey Pike, Jessica Lee, Colleen Wagner, Linda-Gail Bekker
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 15, No 1 | a4216 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v15i1.4216 | © 2023 Nadia Ahmed, Carey Pike, Jessica Lee, Colleen Wagner, Linda-Gail Bekker | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 June 2023 | Published: 27 October 2023

About the author(s)

Nadia Ahmed, Mortimer Market Centre, Central North West London NHS Trust, London, United Kingdom; and, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Carey Pike, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Jessica Lee, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, United States of America
Colleen Wagner, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Networking HIV and AIDS Community of South Africa (NACOSA), Cape Town, South Africa
Linda-Gail Bekker, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

South African secondary schools do not deliver school-based healthcare services despite high rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, sexually transmitted infections, and unplanned pregnancies among adolescents, ongoing sub-optimal uptake of healthcare services from public healthcare facilities by adolescents, and national policy support for such services. A pilot school health nursing programme (SHNP) was offered to 44 secondary schools in a single health sub-district within the Western Cape, South Africa. The programme included fortnightly nurse visits that offered a standard package of healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health services tailored according to school preference.

Of the 44 schools, 42 gave permission for the SHNP to operate, with the majority of schools selecting the full comprehensive package of services. Programme implementation was truncated such that delivery only occurred over two school terms (20 weeks); however, 344 students attended the service. The majority of service users were female with a median age of 16 years, and over a half attended the service for sexual and reproductive health services.

Contribution: A key challenge to school-based health service delivery arose from inadequate stakeholder support and differential views of adolescent healthcare needs among government officials, parents, guardians, school staff and governing bodies. These findings motivate for ongoing multi-level stakeholder engagement around the reality of adolescent healthcare needs and further opportunities to deliver school health services for longer time periods such that their feasibility, acceptability, and potential to impact healthcare outcomes can be assessed in this setting.


Keywords

school health services; adolescent health; HIV prevention; adolescent pregnancy; sexual and reproductive health; South Africa; school health nursing

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