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Health Care in Ghana

The West African nation of Ghana is a vibrant country filled with natural beauty and rich culture. However, like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana suffers from a high poverty rate and lack of access to adequate health care. In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service, 23 percent of the total population lives in poverty and approximately 2.4 million Ghanaians are living in “extreme poverty.” That being said, many organizations and groups — both national and global — are working to improve health care in Ghana.

Malaria in Ghana

A disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is a common concern throughout much of West Africa, including Ghana where it is the number one cause of death. In fact, according to the WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report, nearly 4.4 million confirmed malaria cases were reported in Ghana in 2018 — accounting for approximately 15 percent of the country’s total population.

All that in mind, many NGOs, as well as international government leaders, have taken up the mantle to eliminate malaria in Ghana. This includes leadership from the United States under the President’s Malaria Initiative or PMI which lays out comprehensive plans for Ghana to achieve its goal of successfully combating malaria.

With a proposed FY 2019 budget of $26 million, the PMI will ramp up its malaria control interventions including the distribution of vital commodities to the most at-risk citizens. For instance, the PMI aims to ensure that intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) is more readily accessible for Ghanaian women. Progress has been made, too, as net use of IPTp by pregnant Ghanaian women has risen from 43 percent to 50 percent since 2016. This is just one example of the many ways in which PMI is positively contributing to the reduction and elimination of malaria in Ghana.

National Health Care System

National leaders are also doing their part to positively impact health care in Ghana. In 2003, the government made a huge step toward universal health coverage for its citizens by launching the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). As of 2017, the percentage of the population enrolled in the scheme declined to 35 percent from 41 percent two years prior. However, 73 percent of those enrolled renewed their membership and “persons below the age of 18 years and the informal sector workers had significantly higher numbers of enrolment than any other member group,” according to the Global Health Research and Policy.

It is difficult to truly understand Ghana’s health issues without considering firsthand perspectives. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Enoch Darko, an emergency medicine physician who graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School, commented on some of the health issues that have plagued Ghana in recent decades. “A lot of problems that most third world countries, including Ghana, deal with are parasitic diseases such as malaria and gastroenteritis. Though health issues like diabetes and hypertension still remain in countries around the world, and even the United States, the difference is that some diseases that have been eradicated in Western countries still remain in countries like Ghana,” Darko said. “Many people in Ghana simply do not see a doctor for routine checkups like in the United States. Rather, most people will only go to see a doctor when they are feeling sick. As a result, lesser symptoms may go unchecked, thus contributing to the prevalence and spread of disease and infection. Combined with the fact that many Ghanaians in rural communities may not have sufficient money to afford treatment or medicine, this becomes a cycle for poor or sick Ghanaians.”

That said, it is hoped that with continued support from international players as well as government intervention, the country can continue to make strides in addressing health care for its citizens.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

 


Malaria — a disease caused by plasmodium parasites and transmitted by a mosquito bite — kills about 429,000 infected people every year. Though it can be treated easily for those who readily have access to healthcare, those who do not are often left to suffer. Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa is home to warm climates that attract the principal malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. This leaves the citizens vulnerable to infection.

Malaria often cripples adults and children, forcing those infected to cease working or attending school. People disperse to less economically stable areas due to the fear of being infected; it even scares off potential investors and tourists. The money that the government and its citizens have to set aside for medical costs takes an enormous toll on the economic growth of the affected regions. Direct costs (illness, treatment, premature death) have been estimated to be at least $12 billion per year.

The U.S. recognized the devastating effects of malaria in Africa and decided to take action. In 2005, the Bush administration launched the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which strives to reduce malaria-related mortality by 50 percent across sub-Saharan Africa.

At the end of April 2015, the PMI released its eleventh annual report to the U.S. Congress detailing the initiative strategy for 2015-2020. The report outlines how the President’s Malaria Initiative will work with national malaria control programs to accomplish the following by 2020:

  • Reduce malaria mortality by one-third, achieving more than 80 percent reduction from PMI’s original 2000 baseline levels.
  • Reduce malaria morbidity by 40 percent in PMI-supported countries.
  • Assist five PMI-supported countries to meet the World Health Organization’s criteria for national or sub-national pre-elimination.

To achieve these objectives, PMI will approach five areas:

  1. Mitigating risk against the current malaria control gains.
  2. Building capacity of health systems.
  3. Improving capacity to collect and use information.
  4. Sustaining scale of proven interventions.
  5. Adapting to epidemiology and incorporating new tools.

The PMI aims for the gradual eradication of malaria by 2040-2050. With the help and continued funding of the PMI, malaria will be on the road to eradication in sub-Saharan Africa — along with the social and economic losses caused by the disease.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

Because of the prevalence of malaria as one of the greatest health crises, many governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been taking action to combat the disease. Below are just three organizations that have been instrumental in fighting the disease and how they have impacted the larger global fight in eradicating malaria.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become recognized as one of the leading global health nonprofit organizations. In 2013, it launched the Accelerate Zero campaign to completely eradicate malaria. The campaign has three primary functions. Firstly, improvement of treatment, specifically to the most afflicted areas and at-risk demographics (pregnant women and young children,) will help maximize the effectiveness of current resources. Secondly, investing in new research in vaccines and treatment plans can help expand the potential for medicinal treatment. Finally, the foundation hopes to garner attention and support in eradicating the treatable disease and create a multinational unified front against the disease.

Malaria Eradication Project (MEP)

Though MEP only works in Uganda, there are similar organizations in India and Peru. Founded in 2011, MEP is a research-based organization that is seeking the cheapest treatment plan that can help the most people. Using research methods to target the most afflicted, the goal is to tailor treatment plans based on geographic locations. The model of Uganda can be transported around the globe for targeted specific treatments since a variety of factors affect the epidemiology of the disease.

President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI)

Conceived in 2005, PMI is a program designed to reduce malaria by 50 percent in Africa by expanding health care coverage and making treatments more affordable. The program expanded in 2008 and rose to importance as part of the Global Health Initiative. Along with taking preventative measures like spraying millions of houses and expanding treatment, the initiative has also supplied training to over 16,000 staff.

Though each of these programs are in different stages of development, they demonstrate the multifaceted combat against malaria. These are just three of the many organizations dedicated to assisting malaria-afflicted areas and eradicating the disease once and for all.

Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Malaria Eradication Project, President’s Malaria Initiative
Photo: The Guardian