Review finds shortfalls in Zimbabwe’s Public Health Act

Zimbabwe’s Public Health Act fails to address public health challenges including non-communicable diseases, maternal health and cross-border risks, according to a review by the Advisory Board of Public Health.

Zimbabwe’s Public Health Act fails to address public health challenges including non-communicable diseases, maternal health and cross-border risks, according to a review by the Advisory Board of Public Health.

The 1924 Public Health Act (Cap 15:09) was adopted from the English law on public health and aims to control challenges defined as ‘nuisances’, and conditions or premises deemed harmful to health.

The Act was amended to reflect new health knowledge and challenges but has not been fully reviewed for 88 years.

The Advisory Board of Public Health (PHAB) says: “While the age of the Act is itself not a basis for review, the lack of a holistic review in 88 years has led to a number of shortfalls.”

Itai Rusike, Vice-Chairperson of the PHAB and Executive Director of the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), says a revised Act will be debated by the seventh session of the Zimbabwean parliament.

The review, implemented within the context of Zimbabwe’s health policy, included technical and legal review, and consultation with national and international stakeholders.

According to a document on proposals and principles for the review released by Rusike, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare (MoHCW) requested the newly constituted PHAB to review the Public Health Act in April 2010.

The document presents 20 proposals for review which include the addition of a statement outlining a broad vision for public health, and the mission of the state and actors in the public health system.

Other proposals include rights, responsibilities, duties and powers in public health, the public health system, and implementation and enforcement of the law.

The review states that the Act should continue to provide the framework and principles for guiding public health policy and practice in Zimbabwe, and that Zimbabwean law should provide the right to health and make clear provision for its enforceability.

The review also reflects on new methods and approaches for promoting public health, how the Act incorporates norms and constitutional provisions for individual and social rights, and states that the Act should promote effective coordination with other laws relating to public health.

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