The Ghana Health Service (GHS)in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), on Friday, launched a five-year Project Package of Essential Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Interventions (PEN) for some selected regions.
The Project, is a set of simplified, cost-effective strategies for Primary Health Care (PHC) in low resource settings, to empower prescribers and allied health workers on NCD screening, ensure early detection, appropriate management and timely referral.
Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, the Director for Public Health, Ghana Health Service, at the launch of the Project in Accra, said the country was selected in addition to Ethiopia, Nepal and Myanmar, to benefit from the Norwegian Government grant under the NORAD-Project for NCDs in Low-and-Middle-Income Countries for the initiative.
He said the Project was facilitated through the WHO to scale up prevention and control in line with the NCD Global Action Plan, and that when properly implemented, the intervention would ensure that both asymptomatic and symptomatic persons were picked up early, monitored and treated where necessary.
He said globally, NCDs had been recognised as a huge burden to public health and in Ghana these disease conditions continued to increase among the top 10 causes of hospital admissions and deaths.
“These conditions are driven largely by risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol and tobacco use, as well as air pollution, which abound in the country,” he said.
Dr Asiedu-Bekoe said to address NCDs, it was essential to adopt diverse and innovative strategies, especially in the phase of global pandemic and limited resources for health, and Ghana was fortunate to be to benefit from the grant.
He mentioned the four main area of focus under the Project as: Improve data reporting for NCDs, Priority setting for NCDs within Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Private-Public Partnerships for better NCD services, and Conducting NCD related research.
Dr Asiedu-Bekoe said it was gratifying that the support was being provided at the crucial moment in healthcare where health services were burdened with infectious diseases, maternal, newborn and child health illnesses, and more recently COVID-19.
The outcome of these conditions tends to be worsened by NCDs such as Hypertension, which could occur in pregnancy in the form of pregnancy induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia, threatening the lives of both mother and baby, and could also lead to maternal death, he noted.
He said “childhood cancers are increasingly being reported in our health facilities”, while deaths from COVID-19, had been seen as largely occurring in about 90 per cent of persons with NCD, hence the expectation was that all partners would be fully committed to support “our efforts to address NCDs at the PHC level.
He thanked the WHO and the Norwegian Government for making the interventions possible, and encouraged all stakeholders to put in all efforts to ensure the successful implementation of the Project in Ghana, while calling for regular update to the Ministry of Health and the GHS to guarantee the smooth implementation of PEN.
Dr Efua Commeh, the Acting Programme Manager for NCD- GHS, gave a brief overview of the PEN Project, saying although Ghana was no exception to the rise in chronic diseases, the country’s current health systems were facing what could be described as a multiple disease burden, and like others developing countries it was grappled with high rate of infectious diseases, maternal and child health, malaria, and currently COVID-19.
Dr Commeh said while recorded cases of chronic diseases were found to account for 43 per cent of all deaths in Ghana, a large number of people with NCDs were still unaccounted for, but studies had shown that deaths resulting from stroke and cardiovascular disease were now becoming very common in Ghana.
She said the PEN, would help strengthen health systems to make them more sensitive to NCDs, by way of enhancement of the skills and capacities of healthcare professional through regular training, for early detection and referral of these cases.
Dr Sally Ann Ohene, Representing the WHO, indicated that the vision for the initiative in Ghana was for every citizen to have equitable access to NCD prevention and control services to reach the target of a 25 per cent relative reduction in the overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases and mental health by 2025.
She encouraged ownership of the Project by Regional Health Directorates of the GHS to ensure that the objective of improving NCDs services at PHC level was achieved.