In a four-week pilot during June and July 2016, SA Taxi Foundation will sponsor the Taxi Rank Health Clinic campaign designed and run by the Open-Eye Foundation in consultation with the national Department of Health.
SA Taxi Foundation is the corporate social investment arm of SA Taxi, South Africa’s only independent financer of minibus taxis and one of the country’s few certified developmental credit providers.
The Open-Eye Foundation was established by Mosa Mphore, a survivor, thanks to organ donation, of end-stage renal failure caused by a hereditary susceptibility to hypertension (high blood pressure).
Mphore’s objective in founding Open-Eye is to educate black South Africans about the lifestyle causes of chronic, usually preventable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, HIV, and prostate cancer. His education programme covers the ways in which positive lifestyle choices such as exercise and healthy eating can prevent such diseases or, if they are already present, can help people manage them effectively.
Open-Eye also makes people aware of the fact that organ donations are possible. The organisation’s objective is to encourage people with end-stage diseases to consider accepting organs and for the broader community to understand that donating organs themselves or allowing the organs of their deceased loved ones to be donated can save multiple lives.
During the Taxi Rank Health Clinic initiative, this information will be made available at a range of taxi ranks via mobile clinics staffed by Mphore and a team of volunteer health care professionals who will also conduct free rank-based health screenings and tests for operators, drivers, rank marshals, and commuters.
“We are focusing on taxi ranks because, by the nature of their jobs, minibus taxi drivers are extremely vulnerable to life style diseases,” Mphore says. “They work extremely long hours, seven days a week. So, they have no opportunity to go for regular medical check-ups.
“They work under high stress, grab junk food meals when time permits, and sit for hours in one position.
“All of these conditions individually and collectively can trigger lifestyle diseases, including some forms of cancer. And they can impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.
“Clearly, apart from threatening the drivers’ own livelihood, this negatively impacts their passengers and other road users. Ironically, however, these chronic and life-threatening conditions are preventable. Most people simply don’t know that and we see it as our job to give them that information.”
SA Taxi Foundation director, Kalnisha Singh, says that the Foundation has chosen to support the Taxi Rank Health Clinic initiative not only because SA Taxi feels a responsibility towards its own customer base, some 23 000 minibus taxi operators, but to the entire community served by the minibus taxi industry.
“The industry impacts millions of commuters on a daily basis. That’s an unacceptably large number of people who have no idea that they might be suffering from an illness that could be life-threatening if left untreated. Or, who are unaware that they can ensure that they don’t get such an illness – or let it become chronic.
“South Africans shouldn’t be without such basic information. And, all of us have both a personal and a civic responsibility to take a preventative approach to our health. The health of our economy depends on so many different levels on the good health of our people.”
For both Mphore and Singh, it is also important that the lack of knowledge and taboos in black communities about organ donation be addressed.
“I was a healthy, active, reasonably well educated 23 year old when I was diagnosed with end stage renal failure and I had no idea what high blood pressure was, that it could be hereditary, or even where my kidneys were in my body,” Mphore says. “Certainly, I had no idea that I could have prevented my kidneys from failing by eating differently. And, the idea of being an organ recipient was completely foreign to me.
“Thankfully, someone had the grace to make a kidney available and I’ve never looked back. But it’s vital that people know that death from a lifestyle disease is not necessarily inevitable. Apart from any other consideration, the number of organs that could become available if the black community were aware that they could donate them would increase exponentially. So many more lives could be saved.”
The initial Taxi Rank Health Clinic campaign will be run in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurheleni, and the West Rand.