1999 • Children's Health Education Award

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Professor Marian Jacobs graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in paediatrics and public health.  Armed with this qualification, Marian has dedicated her career and skills to the people of Cape Town.

She is currently Professor of Child Health at UCT and also holds the position of Head of the university’s Child Health Unit.  In addition she is a paediatric specialist at Groote Schuur Hospital. 

From a young age Marian knew that her love for children would be the basis of her choice of career in future.  Initial thoughts of becoming a nursery school teacher gave way to studying medicine culminating with particular emphasis on paediatrics.

Throughout her career, in the fields of research, teaching and practice, Marian has maintained a strong focus on the health care of children, primarily those from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Her work in the poor (economic and social) areas of Cape Town has resulted in the publishing of several books and articles in scientific journals and popular publications. 

In tandem with her work, Marian, who is a keen advocate of children’s rights, has been involved in various organizations seeking to protect and enhance the rights of children in South Africa.   

Her work in this area has culminated in her being appointed as a government advisor on child rights and the national program of action for children in South Africa.

Marian has witnessed, and been instrumental in effecting, many changes in child rights.  From the initial recognition by the government of children’s special needs within the framework of the RDP, there is now a National Programme of Action for Children.  This Programme ensures that government policies are child friendly and child rights advocacy groups have been active in ensuring that the rights of children are given priority. 

In her capacity as a medical practitioner, her achievements have been outstanding.  Her work in paediatrics and child health have been recognized and rewarded by her peers, earning her the position of chairperson for the boards of both the South African Medical Research Council and the South African Trust for Health Systems Research and Development. 

She has also been appointed as a board member of “Soul City” – a multi-media health and development initiative. 

Not content with the changes that she has been able to influence so far, Marian believes that there are some children’s issues that still require attention – in both developing and developed countries.  She believes that more attention needs to be devoted to chronic illnesses and environmentally determined health effects, such as children’s exposure to tobacco smoke. 

Marian does not feel that her mission is complete until each child has access to quality health care and has a forum through which his/her voice can be heard. 

Marian’s love for children has been all consuming, in her own family life with her daughter Tamlyn, through her work and through her political activism.  When spending time with her own family, Marian can be found on the tennis court, in a theatre or music venue or soon, learning the intricacies of Irish Dancing. 

The children of South Africa can be grateful to Marian for the work she has done, and continues to perform, on their behalf to make their health and rights issues of primary concern to the government and the communities in which they live.