by Amy Countier

Healthy CSI funding platform

Private sector responds to health challenges

The private sector has come to the aid of poor communities through meaningful CSI investment.
Private sector responds to health challenges

"The business sector can no longer stand by and be a passive spectator to the socio-economic and security issues engulfing our country. In the past business has been inexperienced and lethargic in engaging on social issues – it can no longer do this.

"We now need to become an active participant and start addressing the social dislocations in our society," says Brad Mears, CEO, SABCOHA.

It will create a targeted CSI funding platform, which will provide business with a tangible business-led mechanism to assist government in delivering on its socio economic promises.

Impact and confluence of these issues has had a direct effect on the private sector's ability do business effectively, efficiently and profitably in South Africa. 

"South Africa bears the unenviable title of the most unequal society in the world and the response to our social inequality can no longer be the sole responsibility of government.

"Business cannot remain aloof to these realities any longer and needs to make sure that it becomes an active participant in reducing inequality in our country.

"This however can only take place if we have a social contract with government that is built on robust dialogue and trust from both sides," he said.

The Community Fund

The Community Fund was started by SABCOHA in 2010 and has its roots in the HCT campaign initiated by government.

Through SABCOHA, donor funding was sourced from the Global Fund to create a co-funding mechanism between the private sector and donor agencies, enabling business to play a role in the wellness screening of uninsured and impoverished communities within which it operates.

Over the past two years, it has provided screening for a range of healthcare issues within these communities, including tests for HIV, STD's, cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension.

In 2012, over 44 000 wellness-screening tests were undertaken across South Africa, in many instances in rural areas.

One of the key differentiation aspects of the Community Fund now, is that it will provide the private sector with a funding mechanism that has been designed to directly leverage a company's CSI spend and beneficially impact its B-BBEE ratings and BEE scorecard. 

Discussing the repositioning of the Community Fund, Mears says, "the impact has widened because of recent changes to the organisation's mandate, which has seen it broaden its mandate beyond HIV and Aids. SABCOHA now aims to improve overall workplace and community wellness meaningfully, through the setting of standards, provision of capacity, the building of a repository of best practices and providing effective monitoring and evaluation. Our engagement has allowed us to develop models of best practice and, through this knowledge, we are now better able to meet the needs of the working poor and impoverished communities. Additionally, in realising that our government does not necessarily have the skills or capacity to meet the challenges raised by these communities, we are partnering with like-minded businesses such as EOH and the Aveng Group to step up business and provide support through the Community Fund platform," he said.

Aveng Group joins call to action

The Aveng Group is one of the first funders of this new collaborative partnership.

The Community Fund will directly benefit Operation Sukuma Sakhe, a KwaZulu-Natal government-led project that has already started bearing fruit with the involvement of EOH within Umlazi Ward 87.

In addition to its commitment to the Community Fund, the group launched its own wellness testing project late last year. It encouraged employees at its operating groups and members of associated communities to know their status and to participate in the health and wellness programme, actively supported by the CEO and management team and appropriately named, 'Lead the way, know your status'. 

Commenting on the group's involvement, Aveng CEO, Roger Jardine, says, "in line with our wellness focus, we have pledged to sponsor 1000 screening tests targeting medically uninsured individuals from impoverished areas. This collaborative effort between business and government will have a positive impact on the Umlazi community." 

"Through our involvement in this initiative, EOH is stating its intention to actively participate in government's call to action and we echo the comments made by the Aveng CEO.

"The company further asks business to come together and collaboratively affect the lives of those in need in our communities.

"We cannot stand on the sidelines as business anymore, we need to use our skills and competencies and work hand in hand with government and organisations like SABCOHA to help create a world that is better than the one we have now," says Dr Adriaan Combrinck, executive for EOH Workplace Health and Wellness.

"The company has been working together with the KwaZulu-Natal government as part of Operation Sukuma Sakhe for some time now and, through its involvement, has been witness to significant benefit to communities in areas such as Umlazi, acknowledged as the province's HIV epicentre.

"Our business structure, which is built around the WHO's pillars of healthcare, aims to drive targeted support programmes that enable government to better engage with specific communities in urgent need of assistance, where due to a number of reasons government is not be able to meet its healthcare mandate.

"We take a holistic viewpoint on what is needed in terms of infrastructure, data systems, supply chain, clinical services, leadership or the mobilisation of communities," Combrinck says.

Mears concludes, "the private sector understands the urgency of ensuring that we have a productive workforce if we are to achieve the development and economic targets as set out in the National Development Plan and this partnership through the Community Fund is in keeping with our vision – healthy workplaces shaping healthy communities.

"One of the key strategic mandates of SABCOHA will be to build bridges between the workplace and the broader community.

"That destiny, to create a sustainable and economic future for all South Africans, is in our hands now."

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