Compared with other middle-income countries, child health in South Africa is in a poor state, and should be addressed by focusing on the healthcare needs of all children across a system or region. Paediatricians have had little effect on this situation, partly because their training is not aligned with South African needs. The proposed re-engineering of primary healthcare will be limited by the skewed distribution of staff and the lack of suitable skills. A 'community' placement during specialist training, and the creation of a sub-specialty in Community Paediatrics and Child Health, could address the skills shortage and possibly attract health personnel to under-served areas through creating an appropriate career path. This proposal would also support the Department of Health's encouraging plans to re-engineer primary healthcare.