Mitigating the effects of poor social conditions in South Africa will have great health benefits



Poverty and socio-economic disparity are among the major obstacles facing South Africans. over 63% of children under six live in poverty. The country is also experiencing increasing unemployment. In addition, there is a high prevalence of Femicide and violence between partners that is often associated with excessive alcohol consumption and substance abuse.

Harsh socio-ecological factors, especially if they occur in a child’s first few years of life, can cause a developmental disorder “Biology of Misfortune”. These are neurobiological and epigenetic processes that steer a person’s life in the direction of poor health, unrealized potentials and a shorter lifespan.


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Neurobiology here refers to normal brain development. This is sometimes controlled by epigenetic mechanisms. These are biological reactions that involve certain proteins that interact with DNA and physically change its structure. Epigenetics can be influenced by our physical surroundings and surroundings. Adverse environments can profoundly alter gene expression and have harmful effects on health, including impaired brain development.

Ignoring the physical environment for detrimental epigenetic programming has clear disadvantages. First, there may be a future population with deteriorating physical and mental health – these people would also be more susceptible to infectious diseases. Second, it can affect the country’s future health and economic development.

That is why child and youth health is an urgent priority and should be placed at the heart of the health system.

in the our current paper my colleagues and I have described how adverse socio-ecological factors in early life can influence the outcome of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental disorders in adulthood. These noncommunicable diseases are on the rise, placing a heavy burden on people’s lives and the country’s health system.

We outline the social and environmental conditions of young South Africans and discuss the possible contribution of epigenetics to the current and future prevalence of NCDs.

We’re also unpacking some early interventions that can help improve the health of children and adolescents. The cornerstones are: optimal nutrition, a safe environment, exercise and education.

Social circumstances

South Africa is one of most unequal societies in the world. Children exposed to such poverty can have immediate and long-term consequences. Children from poor families have higher rates of chronic illness and experience poorer health in adulthood.

More than half (55%) of the population experiences poverty, with implications for child poverty 63% of the children.

With nutrition intertwined When it comes to emotions, cognition and behavior, special attention should be paid to diet.

Research has shown that certain diets are of great benefit to people’s health. An example is a diet that is high in polyphenols. These are plant compounds found in tea, chocolate, herbs and spices, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Several have been shown to be able to reduce disease by preventing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.

In addition, South Africa sits on one botanical ‘gold mine’ of indigenous medicinal plants. Many have anti-obesity, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and anti-aging properties, among others.

Finally, while the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby
have been known for a long timeLike most countries, South Africa is still not doing enough to assist mothers with breastfeeding, though the immense economic impact.


Failure to optimize the diet, especially in the critical development phases of vulnerable infants, should be avoided at all costs. There is an urgent need to make efforts to improve the national diet.

But healthier foods are much more expensive than less healthy, nutrient-poor foods. Products like lean meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables in general costs more than oily processed foods that contain more sugar and fat.

This makes it difficult to promote good quality nutrition because it is simply unaffordable for many South Africans.

International research has shown that the best strategies for changing the eating environment in favor of healthier foods are those that target the population level and are achieved through mass media nutrition campaigns and transparent food labeling. Some countries have more drastic measures taken through regulation and taxation of unhealthy foods.

South Africa needs champions for the health of children and adolescents. The plight of young children must be prioritized and placed at the heart of the country’s goals.

Investing early in the health, education, development, safety, and well-being of children would yield benefits that add up over a person’s lifetime. It would improve their prospects – and those of their children and thus society as a whole.The conversation

Ebrahim Samodies, Postdoc, South African Medical Research Council Research

This article was republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.



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