Minibus taxi industry launches programme aimed at promoting health in their communities
The minibus taxi industry, led by SANTACO, will head up a public and private sector collaboration focused on taking primary and preventative healthcare services to the 19 million commuters that the industry carries on a daily basis.
The health, lifestyle, and HIV/Aids awareness campaign announced today will kick off in KwaZulu-Natal on 15 October, as a Transport Month initiative.
The campaign extends the taxi industry’s ethic of service to the community beyond its traditional role as the largest road transport provider in South Africa and is based on the fact that, because taxi ranks and taxi operators touch the lives of so many South Africans on a daily basis, the effectiveness of any national health initiative that does not include the sector will be limited.
Industry leaders are, therefore, committed to heading up a range of initiatives aimed at ensuring that members of the industry remain healthy and, therefore, best able to serve passengers. At the same time, passenger communities will be empowered through information and easy access to free health tests to understand and, therefore, prevent lifestyle issues from negatively impacting their health.
KwaZulu-Natal has been chosen as the starting point of the overall programme because it is the province with the highest HIV transmission rate. Mobile clinics will be stationed for three days at the Market Square taxi rank in Pietermaritzburg, at Chesterville in Durban Central, and at the Umlazi and Kwa-Mashu ranks, offering minibus taxi drivers, rank marshals, operators, and commuters free testing for HIV as well as other lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.
Free counselling will be available to everyone who has their health assessed. All test results will be kept confidential and, where necessary or requested, mobile clinic staff will make referrals to local health care providers.
Provincial and government departments will contribute information and facilities to the awareness campaign. Private companies, such as SA Taxi, Toyota SA, and Taxi Choice, will contribute resources in line with the programme’s objectives. The close collaboration among all parties is founded on a collective conviction that the taxi industry’s powerful social impact is a sustainable vehicle through which health and dignity can be restored to South African communities.
An offshoot of the health, lifestyle, and Aids counselling programme will be a proposal for the amendment of legislation governing the issuing of the Professional Drivers’ Permit (PDP). The proposal arises from work done by SA Taxi this year in close collaboration with the industry, in terms of free rank-based testing for lifestyle-triggered health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes that can impact drivers’ eyesight.
The proposal will seek to have tests for such conditions added to the existing eye test done for the PDP. The tests would be aimed at ensuring that the diseases involved are identified early and that drivers are given positive and effective strategies for managing them.