Public Health Bill now before Parliament

THE long-awaited Public Health Bill is now before Parliament for crafting and went through its First Reading Stage in the National Assembly on Thursday.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Health minister David Parirenyatwa brought the Bill for the First Reading, where he told legislators that the new Health law will, among other things provide for the conditions of improvement of the health sector and quality of life for Zimbabweans.

“The Bill will provide for the rights, duties, powers and functions of all parties in the public health system, to provide for measures for administration of public health, to repeal the Public Health Act (chapter 15:09), and to provide for matters connected therewith,” Parirenyatwa said.

Currently, Zimbabwe is using an archaic 90-year-old Public Health Act, which is not in tandem with current changes in the health sector.

In an interview with NewsDay, Health and Child Care Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson Ruth Labode said the 1924 Health Act does not take into cognisance issues affecting Zimbabwe’s health sector nowadays, which include changes in diseases, epidemiology, and other health patterns.

Other stakeholders who have come to speak on the Bill before Parliament said they want the new Public Health law to deal with issues of medical aid cover, health user fees, contraception, and even traditional medicines.

The previous Public Health Act of 1924 was limited in scope, as it only provided for powers of the administration to regulate and control the slaughter of animals, food production and handling, food and water supply, and animal diseases.

The new Public Health Bill is also expected to deal with cultural and religious practices, where some populations in the country resist immunisation and engage in practices detrimental to issues of public health.

A complete overhaul to the outdated Public Health Act had taken a long time to be implemented, with the Health and Child Care ministry having in 2010 having requested the Advisory Board of Public Health to review the Public Health Act.

During the review of the Act it was felt that some of the areas that needed strengthening included protection against risks coming from outside the country like cosmetics, medicines, strong alcohol, genetically modified organism foods, and new diseases.

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