IT is said that good health contributes to greater economic security and growth. And to find the right medicine for Joburg, the City is taking its GDS2040 outreach – on its Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) – to far flung areas to gather public opinion.

Loretta Denyssen, the director of management support and development in the City’s health department, explains: “The health and poverty theme week is a street level conversation with communities and a detailed conversation with experts about how the city can radically change ill health and poverty, starting right now and leading right up to a changed city in 2040.”

As part of the Health and Poverty Week, running from 22 to 26 August, there will be health screenings and tests, a fun walk, and numerous discussions on improving living conditions in informal settlements, access to health and social services for migrants, and the relationship between poverty, health and the school system.

Open sessions will be held in Bram Fischerville, Alexandra, Ivory Park in Midrand, Diepsloot, Orange Farm, Newtown and Rosettenville.

They will begin with community listening gatherings in these deprived neighbourhoods, where discussion will look at the challenges facing vulnerable groups and how and why the most deprived areas are worse off in terms of income, employment, education, health and living conditions.


The focus will be on what the government can do to fix things between now and 2040. Denyssen says: “If we do our jobs and if people step up and speak up as we expect them to, we will walk away with some very honest answers to the tough questions we need to ask as we set the City’s long term goals and lay out how we work towards these goals in the Integrated Development Plan (IDP).”

“No one else can tell your story quite as powerfully and usefully as you can – as a citizen and as a community member. The listening session closest to you will deal with issues and ideas that might be very local, but will still be important to the citywide vision.”

Each listening session will be different. In the afternoons, experts will discuss improving living conditions and the living environment in informal settlements, particularly on where to start.

The afternoon series will focus on a different set of issues each day: informal settlements, schools, migrants, food security and the informal economy.

Each day will bring fresh sets of eyes and ears to Joburg’s most complex problems, to engage with people who have been struggling with them and studying them for some time.

The City’s deprivation map tracks five measures of how poor each neighbourhood is. They are: income, employment, health, education and living environment.


“The areas where the listening sessions and afternoon panels are being held are among the most deprived in the city on these measures. Though the conversation is a citywide one, and citizens from across the city can participate, we wanted to take the show to where the toughest problems are so that our very presence starts important conversations,” she says.

“The City gets commentary from experts and policymakers all the time, but the ordinary citizen is too often just not in the room. There are precious few opportunities like this, where the City holds its long-term vision up for public comment, expecting that much of the comment will be critical.

“In the end, a GDS that takes its cues directly from the grass roots, from street level, even as it is enriched by experts and professionals, will be owned by the very streets and town halls that formed it. When it finds its way back to communities as the goals which guide the programmes set out by the next Integrated Development Plan, it will be that much more likely to result in the kind of citizen-government partnerships that really change things – especially heartbeat issues like health and poverty.”

Health and poverty go hand-in-hand since being healthy is dependent on factors such as in which areas people live, lifestyles and the quality of their basic amenities, including food, water and ablution facilities.

The GDS is a long-term plan guiding Joburg’s transformation into a productive, sustainable, liveable and caring city.

Health and poverty

In the strategy, health and poverty are approached as inter-related dynamic forces, using the term “quadruple burden of disease” to describe the state of residents’ health. This burden covers chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiac arrest arising from an unhealthy lifestyle; diseases of poverty and underdevelopment; high levels of injuries; and HIV/Aids.

These challenges will be identified and addressed through the GDS; other issues such as food security also need to be solved. The objective of the GDS2040 outreach programme is to find solutions.

Improving health will contribute to productivity, the development of people and education. Poverty, on the other hand, contributes to ill-health, since poorer people are more susceptible to acquiring diseases, which lead to other serious problems.

The GDS is closely tied to the five-yearly IDP. It charts the long-term strategic course of the City, and makes some of the bigger, overarching decisions about what to emphasise if Joburg is to accelerate economic growth and human development.

The IDP defines where the City wants to be in five years, and how it intends incrementally achieving these goals.

Each week the GDS outreach is focusing on specific themes such as governance, transportation, community safety, environment, economic growth, and smart cities. This week, it is the turn of resource sustainability; last week it was liveable cities.

Joburg has set 2040 as the target date for the GDS. GDS2040 is about incremental structural changes for a new developmental growth path in the city.

To have your say on health and poverty and what Joburg should do, and to find out more about upcoming events for each week, you can follow the GDS review process on Facebook or on Twitter, @GDS2040. It also has a website.