Groundbreaking conference to support children undergoing medical treatment

The Interdisciplinary Academic Conference on the Holistic Support of Children in Healthcare

Wednesday, January 23 2013

Hospitalisation and medical treatment can be very traumatic for children. They are thrust into strange and unusual circumstances which they often do not understand or have any control over. This is not always fully appreciated by adults such as healthcare providers, parents and other caregivers.

A groundbreaking conference entitled ‘The Interdisciplinary Academic Conference on the Holistic Support of Children in Healthcare’ being held in Johannesburg from 12 to 13 April 2013 is set to change much of this. The conference is being jointly hosted by the Organisation for Paediatric Support in South Africa (OPSSA) and Netcare. According to the president of OPSSA, Dr Annemarie Oberholzer, this is the first time that a conference on how children experience the healthcare system, will be held in South Africa.

“While a lot of research has been undertaken on children in the healthcare context in Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa has been slower off the mark,” says Dr Oberholzer. “This is one of the reasons why we established OPSSA in 2011 and have organised this inaugural conference, which will allow us to exchange ideas on how children can best be supported in both private and public healthcare settings in this country.”

OPSSA is a non-profit organisation that provides healthcare workers and parents with information on how to empower children undergoing healthcare treatment. “It also promotes the delivery of quality care to young patients,” adds Dr Oberholzer. She explains that healthcare providers and parents are not always sure how to make a child’s experience of illness and treatment less distressing. For example, the administration of injections and drips can make children very anxious and should ideally be done by practitioners who have the necessary experience when working with children.

The conference is bringing together local and international experts to discuss a variety of topics related to children in healthcare, according to Dr Oberholzer. Experts from the USA, Philippines and Nigeria will be presenting together with local professionals from a range of disciplines. Those attending will include medical doctors, specialist nurses, psychologists, social workers and therapists.

Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment, says there will be something to interest everyone at the event. Some of the subjects that will be explored include: ‘The need for a coordinated approach to home based palliative care* for children with chronic illnesses’; ‘Structured play for hospitalised children’; ‘Children with chronic diseases’; ‘Children and the medico-legal examination’; ‘Experiences of adolescent bone sarcoma [cancer] survivors’; ’Identifying and treating children with post-traumatic stress who have experienced physical injury’, ‘Communicating with children in a paediatric palliative care setting’; and ‘Animal Assisted Activities: Paws for People and the children at Netcare Unitas Hospital’.

A pre-conference meeting is scheduled for 11 April 2013, where important role players in South African healthcare have been invited to discuss the future of psychosocial support initiatives for children at healthcare facilities in South Africa. According to Dr Oberholzer, this will be a critical meeting which will decide the direction that this new field will take in SA.

Toubkin points out that while South Africa’s children are a great gift they are also very vulnerable and it is incumbent on all adults to ensure they grow up to be secure, well-rounded individuals.

“Many of the patients at Netcare hospitals around the country are children and the group has always placed a considerable emphasis on their care,” she notes. “This is why Netcare wholeheartedly supports the conference, which is expected to advance our understanding of child health and enable us to further enhance the care we give to young patients.”

For further information on the conference please visit or email Dr Annemarie Oberholzer at anne

*Palliative care focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients without being able to effect a cure.



Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare and OPSSA>
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney or Monique Vanek
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