World Health Day 2023 – The Affordability & Accessibility of Healthcare in South Africa

Access to affordable healthcare is a fundamental human right, yet for many individuals and communities, it remains a luxury that is out of reach. Cost is often not the only roadblock experienced by those in poverty stricken areas when wanting to access primary healthcare services. Some may find the distance, stigma and time constraints key factors that influence access to healthcare services. In South Africa, the cost of healthcare is a significant barrier to accessing essential medical services and medications. The issue of affordability and accessibility of healthcare is complex, and it affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and demographics. At The Noakes Foundation, we recognize the urgent need for addressing this critical issue, and we believe that access to quality healthcare should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. In this blog post, we will discuss the current state of healthcare affordability and accessibility in South Africa.


South Africa has a dual healthcare system that consists of both public and private healthcare. Public healthcare is available to all citizens and is provided by the government. It is designed to be affordable and accessible to everyone, regardless of their income. Private healthcare, on the other hand, is accessed by those who can afford it and is provided by private healthcare providers. Private healthcare is generally considered to offer better quality care, shorter waiting times, and more personalized services than public healthcare. However, private healthcare can be costly and is only accessible to those who can afford it, which can create a divide in the quality of care received between those who can afford private healthcare and those who rely on the public healthcare system. According to the World Bank, about 10% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, and they cannot afford even basic healthcare services. In South Africa, healthcare expenses have surged considerably in recent years, making it difficult for people to afford medical services. The exorbitant cost of healthcare often leads people to delay seeking medical attention until their conditions worsen, resulting in chronic health problems that require extensive and costly treatments.


There are several factors contributing to the rise in public healthcare costs in South Africa. One of the main reasons is the increasing demand for healthcare services, which is driven by a growing population and a rise in chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. Additionally, the cost of medical technologies and medicines has been rising, as advanced treatments become available. Moreover, lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity have become a significant burden on healthcare systems worldwide, with healthcare expenditures linked to these illnesses estimated to be in the trillions. These costs not only affect healthcare but also have an impact on economic productivity and individual well-being.


Diseases of lifestyle can have a significant impact on the personal lives of those affected. These diseases can cause a range of physical, psychological, and social problems that affect the sufferers overall quality of life. Physically, lifestyle diseases can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness, among others in the long term. These complications can cause chronic pain, fatigue, and disability, limiting a person’s ability to perform daily activities and ultimately impacting their independence. Furthermore, lifestyle diseases can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress, which makes it exceptionally difficult to cope on a day-to-day basis. It can be emotionally taxing and can also impact a person’s self-esteem and sense of control over their life.


To combat the rising cost and accessibility of public healthcare in South Africa, a number of solutions need to be implemented. One solution is to increase government funding for healthcare services, which would enable the government to invest in healthcare infrastructure and equipment, increase the number of healthcare workers, and improve access to essential medicines and medical supplies. Another solution is to introduce more efficient and cost-effective community-based healthcare services. This would help to reduce the cost of healthcare services and make them more accessible to people living in remote or underserved areas. In addition, there needs to be a focus on preventative healthcare, such as public health education and community health promotion programmes, which can help reduce the burden of chronic diseases and the need for costly treatments. 


The objective of The Noakes Foundation is to enhance the health of South Africans by advocating for a low-carb, high-fat diet. The organization prioritizes conducting research and educating the public on the advantages of this dietary approach in improving health and preventing lifestyle diseases. An ongoing initiative that was co-founded by The Noakes Foundation is called Eat Better South Africa!, which is a community-based nutrition education programme that provides training and resources to community members that wish to improve their health through proper nutrition and exercise. Eat Better South Africa’s  selects and trains community coaches to support and guide participants in the programme. They play a crucial role in improving the health of those in the programme by providing practical and relevant nutrition and lifestyle advice, and by offering ongoing support and motivation.


The LCHF dietary approach reduces carbohydrate intake and increases the intake of healthy fats. This change can lead to decreased insulin levels and a lowering of blood sugar levels, which have been shown to be beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. In addition, an LCHF diet may also promote weight loss and improve markers of cardiovascular health, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Furthermore, some studies suggest that an LCHF diet may also improve brain function and reduce inflammation in the body.


Nutrition Network is an online accredited education, connection, and learning platform founded by The Noakes Foundation in partnership with an esteemed team of doctors and scientists. The Nutrition Network aims to educate healthcare professionals and the public on the importance of nutrition in maintaining good health. The organization offers a number of online courses, webinars, and other resources that cover the latest and most up-to-date science and research in the field of Low Carb Nutrition. To learn more about Nutrition Network follow the link


The Foundation’s efforts are especially critical in South Africa, where lifestyle diseases are widespread. Through its initiatives, The Noakes Foundation has played a crucial role in promoting healthy living and mitigating the impact of lifestyle diseases in the country. As we commemorate World Health Day 2023, we must acknowledge the importance of access to affordable healthcare and the economic impact of poor health. The Noakes Foundation’s work is essential in promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing the burden of lifestyle diseases in South Africa. We call upon individuals and organizations to support the Foundation’s work by making donations to support their research and education programs. Together, we can improve the health of South Africans and make healthcare accessible to all.



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Mayosi, B. M., Lawn, J. E., van Niekerk, A., Bradshaw, D., Abdool Karim, S. S., Coovadia, H. M., & Lancet South Africa team. (2012). Health in South Africa: changes and challenges since 2009. The Lancet, 380(9858), 2029-2043.


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