The Transnet-Phelophepa trains are free, mobile healthcare clinics that travel to areas of rural South Africa, where there is just one doctor for every 5,000 patients. Phelophepa (pronounced pay-lo-pe-pa) means "good, clean health" and is owned and operated by Transnet Foundation, with Roche being Phelophepa’s main external sponsor since the first train journey in 1994.
From modest beginnings as a three-car train in 1994, the service was expanded to two 18-coach trains by 2012. The two trains (Phelophepa I and Phelophepa II) provide facilities to conduct general health, dental and eye checks in rural communities, and dispense treatments for diagnosed conditions. The Phelophepa trains run 36 weeks a year and travel to up to 70 remote communities annually. In addition to these general health services, individual counselling sessions and group workshops to help people cope with psychological issues such as stress and depression are offered.
The trains also house special coaches for education, where members of the local communities can participate in classes on general health issues such as nutrition, hygiene and dental health. More specialist services have been introduced, including diabetes prevention, hypertension and cancer screening.
The result of the broad reach of Phelophepa is better awareness of common health issues within these remote and often poorly educated communities. There is an increased likelihood of people presenting for examination, and consequently more chance that patients can receive appropriate treatment. Ultimately the outcomes of Phelophepa are driven by the focus on ‘good, clean health’. Health inspires productivity, productivity generates growth and growth inspires prosperity.
Since the first train started its journey more than 25 years ago, the trains have touched the lives of approximately 14 million people, dispensed medication to over 3 million patients and provided health screening to over 2 million people. Since the trains’ inception, more than 15,000 volunteers have participated in a basic healthcare education programme, and over three million people have participated in HIV/AIDS and first aid training.On average the trains serve as a training opportunity for student doctors and nurses and a job opportunity for hundreds of unemployed or retired health professionals.