Like in many countries, speciality of Public health medicine (or preventive medicine or community health) had originated since the last century when the first Medical Officers of Health were appointed.
The currently the Public health physicians were recognized as one of scarce skills in South Africa (Source: Top100 occupation in demand List, Department of Higher Education and Training). According to Organizing Framework for Occupations, Public health Physicians (or Public health medicine specialists) (OFO code 221103) are expected to be responsible for preventative health care programs in hospitals, clinics, or other facilities. (Source: Department of Higher Education and Training, 2012).
The speciality of Community health was first approved by the South African Medical and Dental Council in 1981. Prior to this there was a speciality of Preventive medicine, which was initiated in 1953 but subsequently discontinued. The speciality was later renamed as Public Health Medicine in early 2000. There are a number of organizations involved with the speciality, the role of these organizations are described below:
The Colleges of Medicine of South Africa: The inaugural meeting of the Faculty of Community health of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa was held in May 1976. Prof IWF Spencer was the convenor. In view of the approaches by the related disciplines of administrative medicine and occupational health, provision was made for their incorporation in the faculty and representation on the interim committee pending election to the executive committee at the time of College elections in 1977. The Faculty at that stage incorporated Community medicine, Administrative medicine and Occupational Health. Draft regulations and a syllabus for the Fellowship in the Community Medicine of the Faculty of Community Health were drawn up at the inaugural meeting and have been submitted to the examinations and Credentials Committee of the College Council. Consideration is proceeding regarding the necessity to offer, in addition a qualification in community medicine at Diplomas level. Decision concerning what examinations at which level to set them in respect of Administrative Medicine and occupational health is differed until representation of these disciplines on the executive committee of the faculty be finalised (Extracts from the Annual report the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa).
The first part I examination for the Fellowship of the Faculty of Community health (community Medicine) of the CMSA took place in April/ May 1981. Eight candidates were successful in that examination. Subsequently, an examination was held for the FFCH(SA) Part II in Cape Town in April 1982. This qualification was awarded to Dr CC Jinabhai of Durban. (Extracts from the Annual report the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa).
Professional Associations: Community Health Association of South Africa (CHASA) was formed in 1980’s as a professional Association of Community Health Specialists in South Africa. The Association used to hold regular conferences. The first such conference on Community Health was held in then Bophuthatswana in May 1983 which was attended by representatives from Durban Cape Town, Pretoria and MEDUNSA. However, the Association ceased to exist in early 2000.
South African Public Health Medicine Association was formed against this background as a professional association of Public Health medicine specialists in South Africa. The Association was formed as an affiliate of South African Medical Association in 2012.