Becoming a parent is a joy but it can also be overwhelming and just a little daunting. There is no degree or diploma, you are simply propelled into it. It’s a steep learning curve. You instantly have a new life depending on you and, combined with sleep deprivation, the challenges of adjusting to being a parent and wanting to do the best for your child, you need all the help you can get.

Sadly, annually about 12 million children in developing countries die before they reach their fifth birthday. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), seven in 10 of these deaths are due to five main diseases, including:

  • Acute respiratory infections (including asthma but mostly pneumonia)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Measles
  • Malnutrition
  • Malaria (found only in Kwazulu/Natal, Mpumalanga and the Northern Province).

In South Africa the Department of Health has added additional health issues to the WHO list – such as, upper respiratory infections (including ear infections), TB, HIV/AIDS, child abuse and meningitis as priority condition.

Two years ago, Bonitas Medical Fund launched South Africa’s first dedicated toddler’s health advice line. Called Babyline, this 24/7 helpline is invaluable for new parents. The service, available to its members, means sound health advice from professionals, is just a phone call away.

“Parents are often confronted with a host of children’s health issues, particularly in the first three years. In an effort to help educate and support Bonitas moms and dads and to ensure their medical aid benefits last longer, we introduced the Babyline service,” explains Gerhard Van Emmenis, Principal Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund.

“The system of telephone advice guarantees members instant and real-time access to pre-eminent, professional advice and standardised paediatric protocols,” explains Van Emmenis.

“Our aim is to give parents the best possible resources to help them maintain and improve the health of their child. It’s about giving anxious parents peace of mind when it comes to an urgent health concern and, hopefully, also alleviate unnecessary trips to doctors or hospitals.”

The service was developed in conjunction with the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Pretoria and is based on a concept used by the top providers of child health advice in the USA. ‘We do have to stress that although Babyline is designed to assist parents with health concerns, nurses do not provide diagnosis or prescriptions. They are on call to offer advice on how best to deal with the current health problem or refer you to the nearest healthcare facility,’ he cautions.

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