A project aimed at empowering rural communities to change behaviours and increase demand for health services has started in northern Ghana.
The project, dubbed: “Community Engagement for Health and Wellbeing” under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Accelerating Social and Behaviour Change initiative, seeks to engage communities to understand and appreciate their right for quality health services.
The five-year project would be implemented by the Ghana Health Service in collaboration with the Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC).
It would benefit 17 districts in four regions and Community Health Planning and Services (CHPS) zones.
The beneficiary areas include; Yendi, Mion, Karaga, Gushegu, Nanton and Sagnarigu in the Northern Region, East Mamprusi and Mamprugu-Moagduri in the North East Region, Bawku Municipal, Bawku West, Garu and Tempane in the Upper East Region, and Daffiama-Bussie-Issa, Nadowli-Kaleo, Sissala East, Sissala West and Wa East in the Upper West Region.
Ms Hafsatu Sey Sumani, the Head of Programmes Policy and Campaigns, NORSAAC, in an interview with Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of a stakeholder engagement in Bolgatanga, said the main aim of the project was to generate demand for and increase uptake of services while promoting measurable behaviour change across the beneficiary districts.
She said the initiative, modeled on the CHPS concept, aimed at empowering communities and frontline health workers to design and implement tailored Community Health Action Plans to reduce the burden of diseases in their communities and improve upon the quality of life in the rural areas.
It focuses on addressing the patronage gaps in malaria, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), nutrition, family planning, sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health and other emerging infectious disease like COVID-19.
Data from the Ghana Health Service had shown low patronage of health services, particularly in the rural areas, with such attitudes affecting, Ms Sumani said, and that needed to be changed.
The project would employ community durbars and groupings such as the Village Savings and Loans Associations, to strengthen action and increase communities’ control over their health and promote measurable behaviour change.
“At the end of the implementation, we should see an increase of about 12 per cent demand for all the health service indicators and we are hoping that they get services around that,” she said.
Mr James Adjei, the Upper East Regional Health Promotion Officer, Ghana Health Service, said behaviour change was key to strengthening and improving upon the health systems in the country, especially those in the hard-to-reach communities.
He, therefore, called on all stakeholders, especially those in the health sector, to support the project to change the behaviour of the citizenry towards health issues.
Mr Hardi Tijana, the Executive Director, Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS), a local implementing Non-Governmental Organisation of the project in the Upper East Region, noted that all efforts and collaboration would be advanced to build people’s capacities on the available health services and how they could access them to stay healthy.