When the draft National Health Bill was released by the Executive for comment in 2002, it lacked any specific reference to children’s rights and children’s health care services. The Children’s Institute played a key role in promoting the prioritisation of children’s issues in this Bill.

The inclusion of children's rights to basic health care services in the Constitution, in addition to everyone's right to access to health care services, means that children's basic health care needs should enjoy priority when the State drafts legislation, allocates budgets or make executive policy decisions. The Children's Institute submissions and presentations to the Department of Health and the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health ensured that the preamble and objects clauses in the Bill expressly recognise children's constitutional health rights, as well as the State's obligation to realise these rights. The current policy of providing free primary health care for everyone and free health care services for pregnant women and children under six was also entrenched in the legislation.

However, when the Bill was passed by Parliament at the end of 2003, no substantive clauses were included in the Bill that ensured that children's health care service needs were co-ordinated and prioritised. By early 2008 the draft regulations for the Act were still pending, and the Institute will engage with these once published for comment.

Further reading

Submission on the National Health Bill
Proudlock P & Shung-King M August 2003
Presented to the Portfolio Committee on Health, Parliament.

Legislating for children's right to health care services
Proudlock P June 2002
In: MCH News No. 18

Health rights at risk
Proudlock P 2002
In: ChildrenFIRST Issue No. 42 April/May edition

Facts about child deaths: an overview of child deaths for decision-makers and service providers in South Africa
Shung-King M & Proudlock P May 2002