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Pretoria – Governments have the responsibility to ensure that policies affirm the complicated link between health and development, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The right to the conditions necessary to achieve the highest attainable standard of health is a universal right and it is thus the duty of governments to respect, protect and fulfill this right,” the Deputy President said on Monday.

He was speaking at the opening of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Forum, which is attended by industry expects and former first lady Graca Machel.

He said the focused approach must therefore not merely focus on income, but must also include everything that impacts on the human condition.

Achieving health equity will mean that human potential is not determined by the social gradient-where the poorest of the poor have the highest levels of illness and premature mortality.

The two-day forum provides a platform to focus on the importance of strengthening maternal, infant and child health in South Africa and to mobilise all sectors of society to contribute to this effort.

“This meeting comes at a critical time … we have less than 500 days before the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

He said the meeting would provide a unique opportunity to reflect on the country’s achievements and focus on what needs to be done to accelerate progress towards achievement of the MDGs.

The achievement of quality health care needed to remain a priority after the 2015 deadline for the millennium development goals, Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

Universal health coverage and measures to address non-communicable diseases should also be included in the post-2015 agenda, he said.

In South Africa, he said, the National Development Plan would help achieve health equity.

“The implementation of the National Development Plan will support our commitment to achieve health equity amongst other things; through the implementation of an urban and rural development strategy, which includes good environmental designs that encourage activities which promote and support healthy lifestyles for example and by investing in infrastructure policies that support rural-to-urban migration.”

Deputy President Ramaphosa went on to say that the health of mothers and their children is key to achieving development and equity.

“We must strive to ensure that women receive the best care for themselves and their new-borns. We must also ensure that children receive appropriate support, stimulation and nutrition.

“We must empower young people to attain their full human potential, while we secure workplaces that contribute to economic development, and where adults are able to contribute to the wellbeing of their families and society. The elderly need our love, support and respect.”