Monday, June 30, 2008

Workshop on Malaria control Held (Page 44)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (June 30, 2008)
A GHANAIAN scientist, Professor Issabella A. Quakyi, has noted that the malaria causing parasite has so far eluded all scientific attempts at eliminating it and, therefore, making it difficult to find effective vaccine for the eradication of the disease.
She pointed out that instead of about 80 per cent efficacy level for any effective vaccine, existing ones so far found to fight the malaria-causing parasite stood at about 40 per cent.
She explained that researchers were having problems with the malaria-causing parasites, the plasmodium species, because the parasites had a very complex lifestyle, had antigenetically unique stages and also infected different tissues of the body.
Professor Quakyi, who is a researcher at the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana, was presenting a paper on the “Complexity of Malaria” at a forum in Accra organised by the Ghana Voices for Malaria-Free Future in collaboration with the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP). It was on the theme, “Towards a Greater Understanding of Malaria and Working Towards Elimination and Eradication”.
Participants were district directors of health service, public health practitioners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and journalists.
She, however, said there were reasons to believe that vaccines could be found as efforts were being made in that direction by scientists the world over, since safe effective vaccine would contribute greatly to effective control and prevention of malaria.
Speaking on “Malaria Control, Elimination and Eradication”, the Programme Manager of NMCP, Dr (Mrs) Constance Bart-Plange, explained that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had ranged the fight against malaria from control to pre-elimination to elimination and finally to eradication.
Dr Bart-Plange said while some countries were presently at different stages, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the only country which had so far reached elimination stage and was awaiting WHO certification.
She stated that the fight was easier for countries in low transmission areas than those in high transmission areas which include those mostly in West Africa.
Countries that have attained pre-elimination status are El Salvador, Korea, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Dr Bart-Plange, however, stated that Ghana’s case was not a hopeless one, since it was among the four countries in Group A at the control stage. Others are Nigeria, Senegal and Benin.
She reiterated that malaria eradication stage could be achieved only after there was no malaria anywhere in the world (global eradication), and observed that that could be made possible if a vaccine was found.
“Global eradication of malaria may not be attained with the current existing tools,” she stressed.
The chairman for the programme, Professor David Ofori Adjei, who is also a former director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), said the fight against malaria was a difficult one and therefore, must be supported by all.
He touched on the need for proper diagnosis of the disease in order to tackle it holistically, adding that there was the need to get reliable data to enable policy makers to plan properly.

Conflicts Can Lead to Mental Illness (Page 55)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Sahadatu Atintande (June 30, 2008)
THE Minister of State at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, Ms Elizabeth Ohene, has observed that individuals in conflict zones go through experiences that made them prone to mental illness.
Sharing her experiences in areas such as Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where she saw people go mad overnight because of atrocities they witnessed, Ms Ohene said the present situation at Bawku should be a concern to all.
In her address to participants at a three-day International Conference of African Association of Psychiatrists and Allied Professionals (AAPAP) in Accra, she said the situation could be even more complex when it involved children because they were vulnerable and could easily be affected.
“What kind of training is given to our children if they wake up each morning to hear the sound of gunshots and see violence everywhere?” she queried.
Quoting health experts, Ms Ohene said mental health was considered the fourth major health problem in Ghana, adding that if nothing was done immediately about the situation, by 2015 depression alone was going to be the second most significant health problem.
She said mental illness, just like HIV/AIDS, could no longer be considered as a health issue but rather developmental, which, if not properly addressed, would compound the socio-economic problems of the continent.
The minister of state said presently, Africa was going through a lot of social changes, bringing with them serious mental issues and therefore called for the necessary steps to take to promote mental health on the continent.
She touched on stigmatisation facing people affected by the disease and appealed to health professionals to help demystify the disease in order to eliminate the stigmatisation.
The President of the AAPAP, Dr F. G. Njenga of Kenya, expressed delight that there were many individuals on the African continent knowledgeable on how to handle the issues of mental health, adding that the continent could boast professionals who could “stand firm and tall in the world of psychiatry, having worked diligently to create a deep and strong foundation for its future”.
He said AAPAP had achieved a lot, including the production of a textbook entitled “Essentials of Clinical Psychiatry in Sub-Saharan Africa” and had also started its own official publication “the African Journal of Psychiatry” that appeared regularly.
In his welcoming address, the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the conference, Dr Sammy Ohene, promised a fruitful meeting.
The chairman for the programme, Dr Awua Siaw of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), said in order to effectively tackle the issue of mental health, there was the need for the supply of adequate resources, adding that although efforts were being made in that direction, what was available currently was not enough.
In an interview, the Chief Psychiatrist of the Accra Psychiatry, Dr Akwasi Osei, said the conference would offer all the participants the opportunity to share ideas and learn from one another, adding that a total of 48 presentations were going to be made.
He also expressed the hope that after the meeting, each country would be in a better position to form a stronger association locally for the benefit of the people of Africa.

Regain access into International Markets-Baah Wiredu (Page29)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (June 28, 2008)

THE Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, has challenged developing economies to endeavour to regain access to the international money and capital markets.
He said there was enough evidence to show that other financial support such as those from the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) had not only been insufficient but also unpredictable and, therefore, made planning and budgetary processes difficult and burdensome.
Mr Baah-Wiredu was addressing the Commonwealth Business Council’s (CBC) Annual Banking and Financial Services Forum in London, held on the theme: “New Financing Tools for Developing Economies”.
Materials made available to the Daily Graphic in Accra indicated that the minister was invited by the Chief Executive Officer of the CBC, Dr Mohan Kaul, to address the forum and share Ghana’s experience.
Issues discussed at the forum included Unveiled New Financing Sources; Sovereign Credit Rating and Regional Bond Market; Financial Inclusion; Remittances and other Receivable; Carbon Financing and Islamic Financing.
Addressing other finance ministers, governors of central banks, managing directors, directors, permanent secretaries and chief executive officers within both the commonwealth and non-commonwealth countries, Mr Baah Wiredu stated that developing countries, especially those in the sub-Saharan Africa, were presently facing financial difficulties because of problems they faced in the 1980s.
“Renowned economists had described the 1980s as a lost decade for sub-Saharan Africa, partly because the continent lost credibility with its creditors in the era of debt crisis”, he stressed.
Mr Baah Wiredu explained that the situation made the creditors to tighten conditions and processes accessing funding from the international money and capital markets and since denied many developing countries access to these sources for finance forcing the countries to rely on inadequate Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).
He pointed out that the need to look elsewhere for additional support made the forum relevant, adding that if the affected countries were able to work to improve on the credibility issue and also pool their portfolios together, they could minimise risk levels and raise liquidity on regional basis.
Touching on available data on financial inclusion in most developing countries, the minister observed that there were indications that more that 60 per cent of the population were excluded from the formal banking services.
Citing Ghana as a case, he said there had been significant progress in both formal and informal sectors in addressing the exclusion of the informal sector from certain financial services such as the introduction of what was locally referred to “susu collectors”.
Explaining the concept, Mr Baah Wiredu said these were saving agents who went round markets and other economic centres to collect daily savings of people for kept them till the end of a month; a system, he said, that linked the business people who had no links with the banks by taking their savings and depositing them at the banks.
He commended the role being played by rural and community banks, credit unions, co-operative societies, non-bank financial institutions, and micro-banking institutions in mobilising funds.
He, however, lamented over the fact that many the developing countries had large resources which were either underdeveloped or undeveloped and also many of the people were excluded from economic activities, a situation that he said contributed to the narrowing of economic and financial activities.
Mr Baah-Wiredu stated that there was the need for developing countries to put in their best to explore into details, all potential financing sources that would lead to a diversified portfolio for the common aim of achieving fiscal sustainability in the medium to long-term.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Holy Quran Translated into Dagbani (Page 21)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
A DAGBANI version of the Holy Quran has been launched in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital, by the Regional Minister, Alhaji Mustapha Idriss Ali.
To reach a larger audience, another launching ceremony will be organised on Saturday, July 5, 2008 at the Teachers’ Hall in Accra.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the translator of the Quran from Arabic to Dagbani, Sheikh Muhammad Baba Gbetobu, said his effort was to offer Dagbani speakers the opportunity to read and understand the Holy Book in their own language without any difficulty.
He said he spent five years working on the project and expressed gratitude that he had finally been able to achieve his aim.
Sheikh Gbetobu who did the translation with a Certificate of Registration from the Copyright Office dated May 20, 2008, said it was difficult for him to raise enough funds at the initial stage, adding that his initial attempts yielded only GH¢630, out of GH¢11,500 that he needed for the work.
He expressed gratitude to the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, who introduced him to the Saudi Arabian Embassy to assist him even though he received no assistance.
He also said further efforts in Kano, Nigeria also proved futile and again another at the Iranian Embassy yielded no results.
Sheikh Gbetobu said he eventually had support from a private printing house, Impressive Image Printing Press at Bompata in Kumasi, where the work was done.
He pointed out that within six months, the literature was out although few copies were made at first.
To come this far, Sheikh Gbetobu said he spent a total of GH¢12,600.
He hinted that he would organise another launch in Kumasi after the Accra one and requested all to attend the programme to make it successful.
He expressed gratitude to other translators with rich background in Islam who assisted him through their guidance and existing literature.

Caption: Shiekh Gbotobu (standing with microphone in hand) addressing participants at the launch of the Dagbani Quran in Tamale.

Free medical care — A move to save our souls.(Page 7)

Article: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

A YOUNG lady I have adopted since she lost her mother in 2004, found herself pregnant. When she called to inform me that she had had the baby through caesarian operation, my heart lost a beat knowing very well that it will involve hundreds of Ghana cedis. Before I could find my voice to ask how much it will cost her, I heard her say; “Mama I was supposed to pay GH¢300 but because I had registered under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), I paid nothing”. I heaved a sigh of relief.
For about three years now, my heart has always been at rest knowing that when the need arises, my elderly parents in the Brong Ahafo Region, if for nothing at all, would get prompt medical care without waiting to receive money from any of my siblings or I because they are covered by the NHIS.
Without being biased towards any political party, I say that the NHIS is one of the best things that has ever happened to this country. I hope that statement would be accepted by all political parties because, so far, all of them have embraced it although each talks of a different way of implementing it if given the opportunity.
Some of us in the big towns and cities who have access to all manner of health care facilities either because we are enjoying free medical care from our employers or are financially sound, might not realise the importance of NHIS, but with people like that poor diabetic who previously had to sell her clothes and jewellery to enable her purchase drugs regularly, the scheme is God sent.
All over the world, people are able to produce when they enjoy prompt medical attention. With measures in place for people to benefit, citizens are always at their best when it comes to production, after all they would be saved from the pains of ill health which usually reduces productivity and national development.
Talking about pain, personal experiences coupled with medical research have pointed out the kind of pain women go through during childbirth. Anybody who has ever gone through labour would tell you that but for the fact that one easily forgets the pain after being safely delivered of the baby, only few women would have the courage to go through it for the second time.
For that and other reasons which border on a matter of do or die, many would have wished that the rest of society would offer all the necessary support to expectant mothers for safe delivery and healthy babies.
That was the reason why there was jubilation among women throughout the country when the news came out that the British government had decided to provide 42.5 million pounds to strengthen the implementation of the government's programme to provide free medical care for pregnant women. The programme is expected to begin, July this year.
Few days after the announcement from the presidency, women’s groups from the 10 regions of the country and led by Hajia Alima Mahama, the Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, defied mid-day rains to throng the Castle to express their deep appreciation to the President and the government “for rolling out free medical care for pregnant women”.
Holding miniature national flags, the women, who sang songs and danced, also expressed their appreciation to the government for the many interventions it had initiated so far to improve their livelihood.
Before that, Mr Andrew Awuni, the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman, had announced to journalists after a journey from Britain with President J. A Kufuor that the decision of the British government to support Ghana's health sector was the outcome of bilateral talks held in London between the President and the British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown.
Mr Awuni said the free medical care for pregnant women represented part of the government’s effort to reduce maternal mortality and achieve targets set under by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The eight MDGs, which include eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, reduction in child mortality and improvement of maternal health, form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions at the United Nations in New York in 2000.
Mr Awuni explained that it would cost the Ghana government an average of $6 million annually for the implementation of the free medical care policy.
He said the Ghana government had been working on the free medical care for pregnant women for sometime now but the implementation of the policy was constrained by lack of adequate funds.
On the fears that the free medical care might not be sustainable because it was donor driven, Mr Awuni said the government would be able to generate internal resources to sustain the implementation of the policy.
To see to its successful implementation, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has formed a task team to that effect. The team has 19 members from various ministries, departments and agencies whose activities are related to health.
At the inauguration of the team in Accra on June 10, 2008, the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd) said, ensuring that women delivered in a safe environment and by competent health professionals was a human rights issue.
“It is also a developmental issue since that is the only way we can ensure that we have healthy and productive Ghanaian population,” he said.
So the question is : how do we ensure that women deliver in a safe environment and by competent health professionals when they could not access health facilities? What happens after the initial fund from Britain gets exhausted?
It is , therefore, a welcome news that the task team, which comprised 19 members from various Ministries and Development Agencies, is to mobilise additional resources to sustain the policy of free maternity care in the country.
They would also identify areas for technical support locally to strengthen the implementation of actions for the reduction of maternal deaths in Ghana and report their findings to the Ministry of Health every six months.
The minister observed that Ghana’s high maternal mortality could be reduced if a greater proportion of pregnant women were helped through child birth by trained midwives adding that the current supervised delivery coverage of 35 per cent was unacceptably low.
It was heart-warming to learn that as part of its responsibility, the team would ensure that women had access to emergency obstetric care, as well as quality care when they visited health facilities.
The free medical care policy, according to the minister, would be implemented through the NHIS at the various health facilities throughout the country.
To make the policy more beneficial to pregnant women, the minister explained that, “ We will exempt pregnant women from paying NHIS premiums. We will also waive the up to six month mandatory waiting period under the NHIS to enable pregnant women enjoy free services immediately they are registered”.
When the women visited the President at the Castle to say “ayekoo” to him, he assured them that the policy would become a permanent feature in the country’s health delivery system. What a relief!
He, however, advised that notwithstanding that intervention, couples should take family planning more seriously to ensure that the programme was not overburdened. An advice which women should take because it is a fact that free maternal care alone could not solve all the problems associated with child bearing. Issues of food, clothing, shelter and education are there to be also considered.
It has become important at this time in the life of the nation to fight our current rate of maternal mortality. Statistics show that 540 women out of every 100,000 are likely to die during childbirth.
Under the MDGs, countries are expected to reduce their maternal mortality rates by three quarters. Ghana has succeeded in reducing poverty by half but unfortunately lags behind when achieving the maternal mortality target. We cannot continue to accept death through pregnancy and child birth which are natural phenomena and although painful, should be safe .
During the meeting with the women, President Kufuor said the mortality rate was too high and the government was, therefore, exploring different avenues to roll out a programme to address the problem.
He said he previously held discussions with the British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, about the problem during a conference on the MDGs and, fortunately, the British Premier had expressed his readiness to help Ghana to fight against maternal mortality by pledging to donate £42.5 million to support the health sector.
The amount, the President said, was only seed money and expressed the hope that the discovery of oil in commercial quantities would strengthen the country’s economy to provide additional resources to sustain the policy.
On his part, Major Quashigah, told the women that the ministry, the NHIS and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) were working together to ensure the implementation of the policy and agreed with a proposal from the task team that every pregnant woman who reported at a public hospital would be registered with the NHIS to enable her immediately benefit from the free medical care.
All things being equal, somewhere in July this year, any pregnant woman in Ghana who visits any public health care facility throughout the country, will be registered to receive free medical care until she gives birth. What good news!
What is left now is how women, especially those in the rural communities, would hear of this policy and use this opportunity. It is, therefore, important for those of us who have heard about this good news to inform all and sundry so that together, we can save our expectant mothers together with their babies from preventable deaths.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Symposium for Health Stakeholders (page 32)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Sahadatu Atintande.

THE Programme Manager of the National Drug Policy, Mrs Martha Gyansah-Ludtrodt, has stated that the quantum of fake drugs in the country is not known since it needs various methods to be able to determine that.
She has therefore, called for a mechanisms which will help determine the volume on the Ghanaian market for the benefit of consumers.
Speaking at a Health Stakeholders Symposium on Drug Counterfeitng in Accra, Mrs Gyansah-Ludtrodt said Mrs Gyansah-Ludtrodt said in spite of the fact that the issue of fake drugs was a problem even in the developed world, efforts must be made locally to deter quacks from dealing in them in Ghana.
She observed that there was the need for both prescribers and consumers of medicines to join forces to combat drug counterfeiting.
Moderators for the symposium were the Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), Professor Alexander N. Nyarko, and the First Secretary of Health and Gender at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ghana, Mr Marius De Jong Esq.
The Chief Executive of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), Mr Emmanuel Agyarko, said the issue of fake medicine had recently become complex since people engaged in organised crime were getting involved, a situation he said was making it more difficult to deal with.
He pointed out that more and more sophisticated equipment were being used by these gangs which was making it difficult for state institutions to control.
He observed that since punishment given to people who manufacture fake medicines was not as severe as punishment given to drug and human traffickers, many of such criminals were changing to drug counterfeiting.
He further explained that while those who dealt in narcotics and human trafficking could be sentenced to a prison term of 20 years and 10 years, respectively those who dealt in fake medicines were usually given about six months prison sentence.
Mr Agyarko said in addition to that, drug counterfeiting was less strenuous and more lucrative, adding that as a manufacturer received about 30 per cent profit, the quack might receive around 90 per cent profit.
Speaking on Drug Authenticity Verification System, the Technology Consultant at mPedigree, Mr Ashifi Gogo, said since quacks had over the years been able to outdo manufactures on systems used to check their operations, there was the need for new ones which could stand the test of time to be introduced.
He pointed out that mPedigree had therefore piloted an instance pedigree verification mechanism on cellular platform in the country to help check counterfeiting in medicines.
Mr Gogo said through a mobile phone one would receive a response as to whether a medicine was fake or not if by texting the code of the medicine to short code 1393 on all mobile phone networks throughout the country.
He expressed the hope that the platform could serve as a public-private partnership to curb supply chain deficiencies.
The Chairman of the Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA), Mr Daniel Kojo Arhinful, said that the most important issues concerning drugs in Ghana were their quality, affordability and accessibility.
He made mention of the fact that the less privileged were the people most vulnerable to the problem of drug counterfeiting and gave the assurance that MeTA would soon be launched in Ghana.
The Chairman of One Global Standard (GS1), Mr Kofi Essuman, explained that the GS1 helped in solving the problem of drug counterfeiting by the use of technology.
He said the GS1, which was a global standards regime in supply chain management, used bar codes to trade, trace and check fraud in consumer goods and expressed the hope that it would be of great help in checking drug counterfeiting in Ghana.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Danger All Over (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (June 24, 2008)
HUNDREDS of Ghanaians are living in great danger along the railway lines between Accra and Nsawam, the Daily Graphic has observed.
Last Sunday, a cargo train ran over Ms Deborah Ashitey, a 27-year-old gospel singer, at the Dzorwulu railway crossing when she was about to cross over to the Christ Co-Workers Fellowship International Church, which is about 50 metres away, where she fellowships.
The train crashed into her, severed her head completely and left her mutilated body about four metres away.
Late into the day, the accident spot was still a scene attracting scores of curious people who turned out to catch a glimpse of the clothes, bones, hair, fingers, torn tissues and other body parts that had been chopped off the main body and which were still scattered around after the body and the head of the victim had been taken away by policemen from the Kotobabi Police Station.
Without any fear for their lives, hundreds use spots of land along the rail lines at Dzorwulu, Dome, Tesano, Achimota and Agbogbloshie as places for habitation and business.
The Daily Graphic visited those areas yesterday.
Houses, shops, containers, kiosks and tables were seen spread very close to the railway lines in Accra, in spite of persistent warning from officials of the Ghana Railway Company (GRC). Some traders go to the extent of displaying their wares on the rail lines, only to rush to remove them at the sound of an approaching train.
At exactly 10.30 a.m. yesterday, the Daily Graphic team had the opportunity to witness the arrival of a passenger train which was passing through Dome from Accra to Nsawam and the attitude of the people along the rail lines, as witnessed by the team, was disturbing.
To them, it was business as usual as men, women and especially children were seen standing very close to the rails or walking along, with no urgency in their movement.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Crossing Keeper at Dome, Mr John Opoku, indicated that he found it strange the way people disregarded the danger trains posed to human lives, adding that he was sometimes insulted when he tried to advise people to be careful with their movement on the rails.
He pointed out that two days to the day that the lady lost her life at Dzorwulu, he had to shout on top of his voice to save the life of a man who was speaking on a mobile phone while at the same time crossing the rail lines ahead of an oncoming train.
In an interview, the Station Manager at the Dome Train Station, Mr David Seidu, said not only did people move on the rails carelessly but they also used the lines for many things, including as a rubbish dump and a place of convenience.
Just as has been described, a walk along the lines from the station to a nearby refuse container proved too offensive to the nose. The whole place was littered with all manner of rubbish, some wrapped in black plastic bags.
Members of a team of workers who were seen getting ready to apply herbicides on the railway lines to prevent weeds from growing on them complained bitterly about how people made their work difficult by dumping all manner of waste materials on the rails.
Behind the Santana Hotel at Tesano, a 21-year-old dressmaking apprentice (name withheld) was found doing what seemed like a catwalk on the rail lines. When she was asked why she was not in a hurry to leave the rails, she said she knew the periods that trains passed through that particular portion and, therefore, she would not wait till that time to move off.
Measures supposed to be adopted by the Ministry of Harbours and Railways to eject mostly squatters who live along the country’s railways are yet to be implemented.
A story published in the Daily Graphic of July 7, 2005 indicated that the demolition of unauthorised structures along the country’s rail lines was to be begin early the following month, which was August 2005.
According to the story, it was unlawful for any structure to be built within 100 feet of the rails. However, some people were said to have built as close as five feet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Report Health Problems Early" (Page 38)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
A Ghanaian neurologist, Dr Albert Aplaku, has noted that it is essential for people to take note of changes in their body system and report to health personnel accordingly for early detection of serious health problems.
He said many chronic and fatal diseases which affect the nervous system for example, began with common symptoms such as fatigue, numbness, rashes, blurred vision and focal disorder, among others, which many people take for granted.
Dr Aplaku, who is a physician specialist at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), was presenting a paper on “Overview of Auto-Immune Diseases” at the launch of Sharecare Ghana in Accra on Thursday.
Sharecare Ghana, which was started in 2006, is by a group of Ghanaians who are affected with auto-immune disorder. Auto-immune disorder occurs when the body mistakenly attacks and destroys its own healthy tissues, organs and cells, which result in a myriad of disorders including paralysis, which is collectively termed auto-immune disorders.
The Co-ordinator of Sharecare Ghana is Nana Yaa Agyeman, a journalist and wife of the Editor of the Accra Daily Mail, Alhaji Haruna Attah. Nana Yaa has suffered from the disease for the past 12 years.
Dr Aplaku said one of such disorders, referred to as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), was a complex and unpredictable disease which affected the central nervous system, adding that it affected mostly women between the ages of 20 and 40.
Dr Aplaku said about 10 per cent of all neurological clinical attendance, which was between 2,000 and 3,000 patients nationwide, were affected by auto-immune disorder.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd) said currently, although there was no separate policy and specific programme on auto-immune disorders, it could be said that the government’s policy on the disease fell within the overall health policy goals and strategies.
“It is the government’s policy to develop systems to reduce the burden of disease, mortality and disability suffered by those afflicted with the disorders and others and to reduce inequality in access to health and health services.
A specialist in Internal Medicine, Dr Ida Kuwomoo, said predisposing factors which led to the disease were genetic, infections and the environment in which one found him or herself, adding that about 70 per cent of sufferers were women between puberty and child-bearing age.
Speaking on “Scientific Background to Auto-immune Diseases”, an immunologist at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), Dr Michael Ofori, said the disease had been found to cause high and chronic morbidity and disability in many developed countries where extensive studies had been conducted.
He also reiterated that women were susceptible than men to the disease, adding that with about nine million individuals with auto-immune diseases found in the USA alone, approximately 6.7 million of them were women.
“In developing countries, including Ghana, the availability of data on the prevalence and incidence is lacking,” he stated.
Narrating her personal experience, Nana Yaa Agyeman said it troubled her that others might be going through the same confusion she and her family went through when she first fell ill 12 years ago hence her decision to form Sharecare Ghana to give support to sufferers.
She said the group was campaigning towards the inclusion of auto-immune diseases in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), adding that although many of them had registered under the scheme, they still had to pay for expensive tests.
The chairman for the occasion, who is also the Rector of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, Professor Paul Kwame Nyame, advised Ghanaians not to politicise the NHIS but to support it by registering so that together everybody could benefit.