HEALTHIER TOGETHER

Ghana 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | REVIEW: HEALTH

As it strives for basic universal healthcare, Ghana has shown consistent improvement in recent years. International entities and the local government acknowledge that there is still much to be done.

Led in part by the pioneering National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ghana's healthcare sector is based on the principle of raising affordability and awareness among the population, as well as increasing vaccination rates, reducing infant and maternal mortality, and working toward basic universal services. With a large amount of rural areas currently underserved, the recently announced “Heal Ghana" initiative aims to send trained nurses and other medical personnel to remote communities across the country.

In November 2017, the government allocated over USD132 million toward the NHIS, which has directly improved overall healthcare funding and ensured smooth operations at many major hospitals. The year 2017 also marked the completion of a project to add classrooms and equipment to healthcare training institutes nationwide. Owen Kaluwa, Ghana's Country Head for the World Health Organization (WHO), told TBY in an interview that, “The NHIS is one of the best mechanisms for ensuring that [universal basic healthcare] happens. The government's current efforts to improve the scheme are extremely valuable and totally necessary in order to maximize the benefits." Kaluwa also believes that digital technology will play a critical role on the road toward universal coverage, largely due to the geography of the country and vast amount of rural communities. “If we are to have service available to everybody then we must reach everyone," he explained. “Telemedicine, for example, would allow highly qualified specialists to provide advice and guidance for the care of patients across the country."
In February 2017, WHO conducted a joint external evaluation of Ghana's core capacities in relation to international health regulations. In collaboration with the international organization, the government has agreed to devise a national action plan to address the gaps.
The country's progress is already evident in the number of institutional maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, which significantly decreased from 167.5 in June 2016 to 149.7 in June 2017. According to Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta, four district hospitals in Kuwamu, Fomena, Abetifi, and Takoradi are nearing completion. The Tamale Teaching Hospital has entered Phase II of its development, and eight additional regional and district hospitals will be under construction in 2018. As well, there are 10 polyclinic projects currently underway in Ghana.
In addition, the government recently launched a folic acid supplementation program for adolescent girls and pregnant women, which is set to contribute to addressing malnutrition and anemia in the country. However, experts agree that the solution requires a combined effort from many different sectors, including agriculture and education. “We need everyone to come together to make a difference," WHO Country Head Kaluwa emphasized.
Despite advancements in several areas of the healthcare sector, the availability of vaccines and antiretroviral medicines continues to be a challenge for 2018. To that end, the government has announced its intentions to develop a clear sustainability plan to increase immunization coverage. There is also still time for Ghana to achieve the associated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets of treating 90% of HIV patients by 2020, which would allow it to remain on course for ending the epidemic by 2030. However, as of 2016, the amount of HIV-positive patients who were on treatment stood at 34% of those diagnosed with the disease.
The creation of a medical tourism framework is also in the cards for 2018, with Minister Ofori-Atta inviting investors and stakeholders to participate in what could potentially be a source of new business and significant income for some of Ghana's best hospitals.