Dr. Oz and his family traveled to South Africa at the start of 2007 to witness the grand opening of Oprah's Leadership Academy for Girls. Now he's back to share his reflections on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Having traveled from the great urban metropolises of Cape Town and Johannesburg, to small and often isolated rural villages, Dr. Oz says he had a first-hand look at some of the health challenges facing the country, including the HIV/AIDS crisis and the deadly effects of malaria.
Dr. Oz says HIV/AIDS has stripped out much of the financial infrastructure of health care in South Africa. "This is an important issue for Americans to recognize as well," he says. "If we have large populations of untreated individuals who get sicknesses like HIV/AIDS, we have to dedicate resources to help them, and these resources are expensive and they're chronic."
He says that malaria is another disease that will continue to plague many parts of Africa unless more protective measures are taken. Transmitted by mosquitoes, one of the best ways of reducing malaria in Africa is to get the population to use mosquito nets, Dr. Oz says. "They're cheap and they're easy to distribute, but for whatever reason, we've not been able to make those commonplace in Africa and other parts of the world."
Dr. Oz also experienced the beauty of Africa's wildlife on a safari and says the animal kingdom has many lessons that humans can learn from. From elephants to lions, Dr. Oz says the animal species that thrive are the ones that form communities and help each other.
"It might serve as a tool for humanity to remember," Dr. Oz says. "We actually are remarkably communal creatures—that's why we've succeeded and thrived. But when we fracture and fragment and begin to focus on the divisive elements of our communities rather than what unifies us, it will ultimately lead to the decline of our species. And I think Africa is a shining tribute to the fact that you can make peace even when it doesn't seem to be possible."