Patient Support Groups

Patient support groups are a very important facet of the broader healthcare infrastructure. A disease-specific support group is usually registered with the Department of Social Development or the Department of Health as a non-governmental organisation, or simply known as an ‘NGO’. They are sometimes euphemistically referred to as ‘charities’.

What is a ‘NGO’, and what function does it perform? 1

An NGO (Non Government Organisation) is established to provide support to patients who suffer from a common disease, for example, Anxiety and Depression, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Down’s Syndrome, Cancer, etc.

Their primary role is to supply information about the specific disease and treatment modalities that are common to all its subscribers or members. Medical resources are not always available or either too costly for patients to continually utilise, and the support group therefore fulfills a supplementary and complementary function.

In most cases, NGO’s rely on donations and fund-raising activities to fund their activities. Donors enjoy tax relief for their contributions. Personnel who work within these NGO’s are often volunteers who have some or other special interest in the disease the NGO represents – usually sufferers themselves, or have a family member with the disease, or quite simply have compassion for other people with this affliction.

Click here for a list of the various registered patient support groups (NGO’s) in South Africa.

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