An ambitious health project seeking to utilise over 2,500 graduates of schools of hygiene, private health training institutions, senior high schools and health extension officers to implement health promotion and disease prevention programmes in the country, has taken off in Bolgatanga.The concept, a flagship project of the government in the health sector, aims to resurrect health promotion programmes in the country, in order to “raise awareness through systematic, aggressive, consistent, and interactive public health education on diseases such as malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, flu, hypertension, and diabetes among many others.

With this concept, the health experts are expected to produce appropriate educational materials on preventive measures, using Basic English and local languages to ensure the effective communication of programme activities.

That notwithstanding, the health experts are also expected to build strong relationships with communities, to gain the understanding, support and involvement in the implementation of health promotion interventions.

“The net effect of these objectives is to help build a better Ghana free from diseases, which can complement the efforts by the government and its agencies to reduce the pressure on our overstretched health institutions and the National Health Insurance program,” noted Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor, Minister for Health, at the launch of the Health Promotion Officers/Assistants in Bolgatanga yesterday.

The program is a private-public partnership between Better Ghana Management Services Limited (MGMSL), and the Ministry of Health (MOH).

It was under the theme, “Promoting a healthy lifestyle for a better Ghana.”
Preventive health care other than curative care
According to Dr. Kumbuor, the rate at which the death toll in the country was increasing was alarming, and it was therefore, time for the populace to embrace preventive healthcare other than curative care.

“Globally, there is an increasing focus on preventive healthcare, because it has become a key source of cost-saving in healthcare delivery systems. Thus, the promotion and maintenance of health, and wellbeing of the populace, are assuming greater importance as key functions for primary healthcare.”

“Empirical evidence shows that preventive health costs less than curative healthcare. In the long run, it brings more benefits to both the government and the people. Thus, by focusing on disease prevention, governments can make a major impact on people’s health, as their quality of life will improve,” he noted.

The Upper East Region has, over the years, witnessed significant improvements in the health sector, in the areas of institutional maternal mortality, with supervised deliveries hiting 52% for the first time in decades.

“This achievement is a reflection of our vision of every woman coming out of labour alive and with a healthy baby,” noted Dr. J. Koku Awoonor-Wiliams, Upper East Regional Director of Health Services.

The Region, according to the Regional Director, has since 1998, not recorded any measles deaths, with no guinea worm and polio cases recorded in the past two years.

“These are indications that with further expansion of our health promotion activities, we can achieve more, and eliminate most diseases afflicting us,” he noted.

However, in spite of the successes achieved in the health sector, the region has not fared well, particularly, in the areas of sanitation and substance abuse.

For instance, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) report 2008 shows the Upper East Region as being worst off in sanitation indicators, alongside child mortality.

Other surveys in the region, according to the Regional Health Director, also rate the region as the highest in alcoholic beverage consumption, with Malaria more frequent and severe among malnourished children, leading to higher morbidities and mortality.

Dr. Awoonor-Williams, worried over this trend, urged the people to particularly, take personal and environmental hygiene “as a practical way of life in the region, in reducing the incidence of malaria in the various communities.”

The General Manager of BGMSL, Mrs. Beatrice Amponsah, said her outfit’s mission was to fulfil the government’s policy on creating jobs for the youth of the country, and also to improve the living standards of Ghanaians, through the provision of services that would effectively control common diseases and ailments.

She underscored her outfit’s commitment to provide technical support for the recruitment of the Health Promotion Officers/Assistants, in collaboration with District Health Directorates, and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.

The BGMSL, according to Mrs. Amponsah, would provide the initial capital required for the take-off of the program, as well as provide managerial, supervisory, and monitoring support for the personnel.

She said her outfit would, as well, provide prescribed clothing for the Health Promotion Officers/Assistants to ensure easy identification, whilst appraising and reviewing the program from time to time.

Commenting on the project, Mrs. Lucy Awuni, Deputy Upper East Regional Minister, said the doctor-patient ration in the region was 1:34,000, with maternal and neo-natal deaths still ranging between 160 and 140 per 100,000 live births.

She said about 30% of the population in the region were without potable water, with only 11% having access to improved sanitation facilities, both shared and unshared.

She believes that many of the diseases in the region could be controlled, or eliminated through better sanitation, nutrition and healthy lifestyles, and therefore, entreated the people to resort to preventive care.

She however, entreated all municipal, district chief executives (mdces) and paramount chiefs in the region, to take a keen interest in the programme, and assist the graduates that would be posted to the districts and communities, in order to help them effectively deliver, adding, “The success of this program would indeed, require the building of strong relationships with communities to gain their understanding, support, and involvement, for effective education and outreach programs on preventive health issues.”

The Very Rev. Dr. Jacob Ayebor, a member of the Council of State, commenting on the initiative, said a lot still needed to be done in the health sector, since life expectancy still ranges at 58 years for women and 56 for men.

However, in order to effectively deal with all health-related problems in the region, Dr. Ayebor entreated the people to take personal hygiene very serious, as a way to complement the government’s efforts at improving health delivery in the country.

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