South Africa: a 21st century apartheid in health and health care?

Med J Aust. 2008 Dec 1-15;189(11-12):637-40. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008.tb02224.x.


The current crisis in health and health care in South Africa results from a combination of factors: the legacy of apartheid; issues of poverty, income inequality and AIDS; and the more recent influence of neoliberal economic policies and globalisation. The legacy of apartheid has meant that both health and health care are skewed along racial lines, and 60% of health care expenditure goes largely to the 14% of the population who have private health insurance. A more equitable distribution of health care resources will result from the promised National Health Insurance, the details of which are still being debated. The AIDS epidemic in South Africa was exacerbated by the government not introducing antiretroviral treatment (ART) until the early 2000s. In 2005, it was estimated that more than 5.5 million South Africans were infected with HIV. Now all those with a CD4 count below 200 are eligible for ART. A better health service will not be enough to improve the health of South Africans. A whole-of-government approach is needed to address the persistent problems of poverty and inequality.

MeSH terms

  • Continental Population Groups*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Care Reform
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Mortality
  • Poverty*
  • South Africa
  • Universal Health Insurance