Stakeholders in health have expressed concern about the gaps in integrated healthcare and called for urgent action to integrate non-communicable disease services into Established Disease-Specific Programmes and the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
They said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and it is clear that we need health infrastructure in low- and middle-come countries like Ghana that is fit for purpose if we are to build back better.”
This was in a joint statement issued at a national stakeholders meeting organized by the Ghana NCD Alliance (GhNCDA) in Accra on the integration of NCDs services into Established Disease-Specific Programmes and the Universal Health Coverage.
The meeting was attended by representatives from various institutions, including government, civil society actors, academic/research institutions.
The institutions are HIV/AIDS Program, Tuberculosis Programme, Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Programme, the Malaria Control Programme, Ghana Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, Hope for Future Generation, Concern Health, and PATH Ghana.
The rest are World Vision – Ghana, Alliance for Reproductive Health Right, Plan Parenthood Association Ghana, Vision for Alternative Development Ghana, Media Alliance on Tobacco Control and Health, Arklifestyle Foundation, Generational Youth Foundation, Revenue Mobilization Africa, Sharecare Ghana, Stroke Association Support Network
The statement said, “Ghana is facing a combined affliction from communicable diseases, and NCDs, which threaten the health of the populace and further compromise the already stressed health systems. Today, more people are living with multiple chronic conditions and this need to be better recognized in the health systems.”
It said despite all the challenges in integrated care, Ghana has made some significant strides in integrated care, particularly for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH).
“However, it is important to align with the idea that health systems need to adapt to a clearer focus on the person and their health throughout their life course, not only on the single health crisis or condition that leads them to seek care elsewhere. This is however lacking in many respects.”
The statement said integrating NCD services into established funded disease-specific programmes, such as HIV/AIDS, TB, MNCH among others; as add-ons or ‘service bundling’ can provide essential priority health interventions to the populace.
“Our failure as a country to effectively and comprehensively integrate NCDs into Established Disease-Specific Programmes over the years has been an impediment to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 3.4 and 3.8, which aimed at “reducing by 2030, one-third premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment and the promotion of mental health and well-being,” it stated.
It said the integration of NCD into Established Disease interventions could have very promising results on health outcomes, equity of access, user satisfaction and trust in health programmes, with strong support from in-country stakeholders to pursue the worthy cause to achieve optimum healthcare that is people-centred rather than disease-centred.
The statement recommended an 11-point urgent action, including seeking funds for system improvements that would benefit more than one disease area and deliberately mainstreaming of NCDs into specific disease-focused areas in the Ministry’s Health Sector Medium Term Development Plan for effective implementation.
It urged civil society actors to support and actively seek to build relationships and join forces with advocates and researchers from other health areas with shared agendas for example environmental health and UHC advocates, among others.
The statement said: “Finally, we, as participants, are hopeful that these recommendations and conclusions being brought to the attention of the Minister of Health and other key stakeholders will be highly reconsidered.”