Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ministry to announce ban on smoking in public places (Page 55)

THE Ministry of Health will, by next month, announce a ban on smoking in public places.
That is the first step in the ministry’s bid to protect non-smokers, including children, from the deadly effects of tobacco. Passive smoking or the inhaling of second-hand smoke has been proved to be as dangerous as smoking itself, since it also causes serious illnesses such as heart and lung diseases, as well as cancers.
In a speech read on his behalf at a stakeholders’ sensitisation workshop on the ban on smoking in public and workplaces held in Accra, a Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Abraham Dwoma Odoom, said in spite of the challenges that the ministry was likely to face, it had to embark on the ban to protect non-smokers from tobacco-related diseases and possible death.
The day’s workshop was organised by the Coalition of Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for Tobacco Control (CNTC) to highlight the public health implication of second-hand smoking, as well as secure the commitment of participants to support the ban and help implement it, especially at their individual places.
The participants, who formed groups to brainstorm on the way forward, included medical practitioners, researchers, people in the hospitality and tourism industries, journalists, artistes, among others.
Mr Odoom said it had become necessary for Ghana to take a bold step towards a tobacco-free society, since the country was among the 150 countries which had ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), adding that signatories to the convention were expected to be committed to effective action against tobacco.
He mentioned some of the likely challenges that the ministry would face when the ban became effective as the fear of economic loss by key stakeholders whose interventions could make a difference in reducing the extent of exposure, as well as lack of adequate formal networks that could adequately support country-wide implementation.
He expressed the hope that all stakeholders would support the ministry in the area of information sharing, awareness creation and mobilisation of support in dealing with those challenges.
The Chairman for the function, Dr Akwasi Osei, complained about the attitude of some individuals who took delight in creating health problems for the rest of society because they smoked in public.
He advised that it was important they stopped smoking to protect themselves from ill health, adding that if they insisted on smoking, then they should do it in such a way that others would not be affected.
The Director of Human Resource at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Ebenezer Appiah Denkyira, said there was an overwhelming consensus among medical and scientific authorities world-wide that second-hand smoke was a major threat to health, adding that the only effective way to prevent the problem was to enact comprehensive smoke-free airways that covered all indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues.
The acting Vice-President of CNTCl, Mr Oscar Bruce, said tobacco currently killed more than five million people world-wide, adding that roughly 14 people died in a day through smoking.
The Focal Person on Tobacco Control, Mrs Edith Wellington, expressed gratitude to the coalition for supporting the fight for tobacco-free society, noting that there was the need to continue with the fight for future generations.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Workers urged to acquire more knowledge (spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, has challenged Ghanaian workers to endeavour to acquire additional knowledge as a buck-up to their regular work schedules.
He said gone were the days when people concentrated on one particular occupation all their lives, adding that the Ghanaian worker needed to continually develop himself or herself in order not to be left behind in the changing world.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng made these comments in Accra yesterday at the launch of an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capacity development centre. It was established by the ministry with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Institute for Communication Development (ICCD).
The centre is to provide opportunity for all government employees to acquire basic computer literacy to enable them to cope with the challenges of what is termed the Digital Age.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng said to improve upon its ICT capacity, the ministry had, within the last five years, established two important ICT centres within the Information Services Department (ISD) at its headquarters in Accra.
These, according to the minister, were the Ghana Portal, the centre which managed the official website of the Republic of Ghana ( launched in 2003, and the second was the ICT capacity centre, which was launched yesterday.
For his part, the Country Director of IICD, Mr Olaf Orz, said the mission of the IICD was to assist developing countries in the use of ICT as strategic tool for sustainable development and poverty alleviation.
He said ICT was considered a tool to be used to support sector development such as education, environment, governance, health and livelihood, adding that to be sustainable, ICT development activities must respond to local demands and offer opportunities for development that were workable in the local context.
In his welcoming address, the acting Director of the ISD, Mr Samuel Asamoah, said the centre was well equipped to train the staff of the ministry and other government employees, as well as members of the public.
The chairman for the function who is the Chief Director of the National Security Council, Mr A. A. Ampong, said the provision of ICT in any sector was to reduce poverty and advised all government employees to take advantage of the centre to improve on their skills.

Price disparity of drugs threat to fight against malaria (page 38)

THE difference in the cost of recommended anti-malarial drugs within the public and private health sectors has been identified as a challenge to the fight against malaria in Ghana.
That is because while the first line anti-malarial drug of Artemisinim Combination Therapy (ACT) is sold at 30Gp at public health facilities, it goes for GH¢3 at private health institutions.
This came to light at the opening of a three-day 2008 Pfizer Mobilise Against Malaria (MAM) initiative meeting in Accra on Monday (yesterday).
The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate malarial control programmes that benefitted patients in Ghana, Kenya and Senegal.
It is to enable health experts to address critical gaps in malarial treatment and education and discuss best practices aimed at improving prompt and effective treatment.
In her presentation on “Gaps in Malaria Treatment,” Ms Lisa Foster of Pfizer Investments in Health said effective malarial drugs were currently available but there were critical obstacles to their distribution.
She added that the distribution of such drugs was hampered by weak healthcare systems and inadequate patient education, as well as care, adding that patients were often unaware of new and effective treatment prevention options.
In her address, the Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), Dr Constance Bart-Plange, acknowledged the problem of accessibility and affordability of ACTs, especially in the rural communities, adding that many people had to resort to buying from licensed chemical sellers, whose prices were higher than those at the public health facilities.
She said the government had currently sent proposals to various development partners, who might help provide the drugs at lower prices or even free to all health service providers throughout the country.
In an interview with journalists, Dr Bart-Plange said malaria continued to be a problem in Ghana because many people failed to adhere to the issues of proper environmental practices, sleeping in insecticide treated nets and completing malarial treatment.
Presenting a report on the overview on MAM partner programmes, a representative of Family Health International (FHI), Dr Henry Magai, said MAM had the objective of improving on early detection of malaria to ensure early treatment.
He also said to further fight the disease, a series of training programmes on how to detect the disease and effectively manage it had been organised for licensed chemical sellers and their counter assistants, home givers and mothers of children under five years.
For his part, a representative of Ghana Social Marketing Foundation, Mr Geoff Anno, said his organisation had developed a training module, as well as community mobilisation manuals, for the benefit of people in the communities.
He blamed the inability of some Ghanaians to access affordable treatment in public health facilities on poor roads in certain parts of the country, adding that such people had to rely on the private sector whose products were not easy to afford.
A release to journalists at the meeting indicated that the three-country initiative, involving Ghana, Kenya and Senegal, was launched in 2007 and would be implemented over the course of five years (2007-2011).
It said through MAM, the group was providing grants, evaluation support and the technical expertise of Pfizer colleagues through the Pfizer Global Health Fellows (GHF) programme to support the country initiatives.
Malaria is the leading cause of under-five mortality and constitutes 10 per cent of Africa’s overall disease burden. In Ghana, malaria accounts for more than 44 per cent of reported out-patient visits and an estimated 22 per cent of under-five mortality in Ghana.
The release said Pfizer’s programme in Ghana aimed to reduce the rate of malarial morbidity and mortality by improving malarial symptom recognition, treatment, and referral through targeted training activities and complementary community mobilisation campaigns to improve the quality of treatment and strengthen the demand for care.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Baah-Wiredu voted Africa’s Best Finance Minister for 2008 (Page 47)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE late Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, has been adjudged the Best Finance Minister in Africa for 2008.
The posthumous award was given by the Development Economic Resource, publishers of the Annual Meetings Daily, a newspaper which highlights developments on the African continent during the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank annual meetings.
The award cited the contribution of the late minister to Ghana’s economic reform, which had consistently put the country on the map of best performing business environments in the world for the past three years.
The ceremony took place in Washington, DC, in the United States of America and the award was received in honour of Baah-Wiredu by the Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei.
Present were the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), Dr Paul Acquah, and Ghana’s Ambassador to the US, Dr Kwame Bawuah-Edusei.
Another African personality who received an award was the Governor of the Central Bank of Zambia, Mr Caleb Fundanga. He was adjudged the Best Central Bank Governor.
The award for the Best Commercial Bank went to Ethiopia, while the Africa Chief Executive Officer in the banking category award went to the First Bank of Nigeria.
Speaking on behalf of the award winners, the Governor of the Central Bank of Zambia, Mr Fundanga, paid tribute to Baah-Wiredu “for his enormous assistance to the development of Africa”.
He recounted that during the 2007 annual meetings of the World Bank and the IMF, he and Baah-Wiredu were voted the Best Central Bank Governor in Africa and the Best Finance Minister, respectively, in the emerging market group.
Baah-Wiredu, who died in a South African hospital on September 24, this year, will be buried in his home town of Asante Akyem Agogo on November 8, this year, after a state funeral in Accra.
Arrangements made by the government and members of his family indicate that his body, which has been flown in from South Africa, will lie in state at the forecourt of the State House on Thursday, November 6, 2008 for a state funeral, before being conveyed to Agogo on Friday, November 7, 2008 for the final funeral rites on November 8, 2008.
He was 56 and left behind a wife and six children.

Keep focus on MDGs — UN challenges governments (Back Page)

Saturday October 18, 2008
THE United Nations (UN) has challenged governments to keep their promise on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) else they would create conditions for grave human misery and global insecurity.
The organisation says the current economic uncertainties have made the task not only challenging but also more important, since about 100 million people are now at risk of falling into poverty.
In his message on the celebration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which falls on October 17 each year, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon stressed that promises made by many governments to bolster food security, eradicate disease, ensure access to water and sanitation and manage financial crisis were not a matter of charity, but an obligation in the pursuit of human rights for all.
In Ghana, the celebration which was scheduled between October 17 and October 19, 2008, was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies. It was under the theme: “Human Rights and Dignity of People Living in Poverty”.
As part of the programme, the public has been asked to sign their names on special banners provided by the organisers or text freely, ‘No to Poverty’, to short code 442 to TiGO or Kasapa and 1395 to MTN as a sign of “standing up and taking action against poverty”.
In the speech which was read by the UNDP Representative in Ghana, Mr Daouda Toure, the UN Secretary-General said it was unfortunate that hundreds of millions of people were still deprived of basic human rights such as food, housing, education and decent working conditions.
The deprivations notwithstanding the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights some 60 years ago, which affirmed that “everyone has the right to standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family”.
He stated that poverty could not be eradicated without due respect for human rights, adding that “on this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, let us guarantee the inherent dignity and equal rights of the human family and strive for a world free of poverty and injustice”.
For his part, the Administrator of the UNDP, Mr Kemal Dervis, said this year’s event came at a particularly challenging time for the world’s poor because of the high and volatile food and fuel crises, as well as the current global economic conditions threatening the gains that had been made to reduce poverty and advance development for large numbers of people.
He said in these difficult times, it was important the world recognise the rights of the poor and vulnerable.
Mr Dervis pointed out that it was also vital that governments in developing countries formulate a strong mix of social and economic policies that would stimulate productive public and private investments to sustain growth.
“Importantly, governments need to resist the pressure to reduce service delivery which impacts the poor particularly hard, and instead ensure that social safety nets are in place for the most vulnerable”, he stated.
He reiterated that it was also important to ensure that poor farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs have protection and opportunities they need to improve their livelihoods.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Illegal lotto operators given final warning (Back Page)

THE National Lotto Authority (NLA) has issued a final warning to illegal lotto operators who use unauthorised materials to sell the authority’s numbers to the public to stop or face the full rigours of the law.
The authority had also reiterated its earlier call to those individuals or groups as well as any other business entity interested in the lotto business to register and work with the authority.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Director of Operations of the NLA, Mr George Addo-Yobo, expressed regret that in spite of a court’s decision to outlaw activities of private lotto operators in the country, some individuals and groups either continued to draw their own numbers or use plain sheets of paper and other unauthorised materials to sell lotto in the name of the NLA.
To stop the practice, Mr Addo-Yobo said a combined team of police personnel and some staff of the NLA would soon visit lotto kiosks throughout the country to arrest offenders for subsequent prosecution.
The operations of what is usually referred to as banker-to-banker became illegal in Ghana after the Accra Fast-track High Court on August 20, 2008 dismissed an action instituted against the NLA by the Ghana Lotto Operators Association (GLOA).
The lotto operators had sought to question the constitutionality of the National Lottery Authority (NLA) Act 2006, Act 722.
In dismissing the case, the court also ordered the GLOA and six others to surrender their lotto drawing equipment to the NLA.
It also awarded a total cost of GH¢14,000 against the plaintiffs. Each of the plaintiffs was expected to pay GH¢2,000.
The plaintiffs were Obiri Asare and Sons Limited, Rambel Enterprise Limited, Dan Multipurpose Trading Enterprise Limited, Agrop Association Limited, Star Lotto Limited and From-Home Enterprises.
Mr Addo-Yobo observed that the fact that the members of the Ghana Lotto Operators Association (GLOA) had appealed against the court ruling did not allow them to operate, adding that “what they are doing is illegal”.
He said instead of registering with the NLA where their activities would be regulated in terms of payments to winners and taxes to the state, those banker-to-banker operators would want to cheat the system for their individual benefit, adding, “how does the government get them to pay the correct tax if they only write the numbers on ordinary pieces of paper which are not numbered or documented?”.
To get the message across, the NLA published a public announcement in the national dailies advising the general public to desist from dealing with such operators and asked stakers of the authority who would be served with coupons other than the legitimate coupons of the authority to report to the management on phone numbers 020-53171111, 024-0939397, 027-1578872, 028-5281102 or 021-671648.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maternal, child health campaign begins today (Women's Page 17)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
This year’s Integrated Maternal and Child Health Campaign (IMCH) will be held from October 16 to 18.
The three-day nation-wide campaign, which is being organised on the theme “Healthy Mothers and Children make a better Ghana” is aimed at creating awareness and encouraging people to take these campaigns seriously in order to reduce child mortality and morbidity, improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality.
The National Child Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) says about 80,000 children below the age of five, die each year from preventable diseases. That is because children at that age are most vulnerable to illnesses which easily kill them before they attain the age of five.
For this reason, the health sector has over the years embarked on series of cost effective interventions to reduce the high rate of child mortality as well as improve on maternal health in the country. Among these interventions are the introduction of the Child Health Promotion Weeks, the High Impact Rapid Delivery Approach, the Integrated Measles Campaign and the annual Integrated Maternal and Child Health Campaign (IMCH).
The GHS, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health (MOH), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Rotary Club of Ghana, jointly launched this year’s IMCH Campaign in Accra on Tuesday, October 6, 2008, to continue with its efforts of saving mothers and their children from illnesses and subsequent death.
Addressing the ceremony which was attended by health professionals, queens, child welfare groups and other stakeholders, the National Child Health Co-ordinator of the GHS, Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, called on Ghanaians to take immunisation programmes seriously since they impacted positively on the lives of children.
She said children under five would be given Vitamin A supplement, immunised against tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertusis, tetanus, yellow fever, Hepatitis B and Haemophilia influenza and will also be dewormed.
As part of the campaign, children below one year in the three northern regions and the Central Region would be offered free insecticide-treated nets as a top up to what had already been distributed to children throughout the country in earlier programmes to prevent malaria.
Dr Sagoe-Moses said to boost the immune systems of babies, mothers need to breast feed their children within half an hour of delivery and continue to feed on breast milk only till they were six months old.
She advised that it was important to immunise children against childhood diseases, make them to complete all required immunisations before they were 12 months old and also take them to clinic for Vitamin A supplement when they were six months old till they were five years old. She explained that Vitamin A made children and nursing mothers stronger and healthier.
One important information she gave was the fact that children were to be given worm expellers every six months instead of the usual three months and also a child should be fed before he or she was given a dewormer.
Dr Sagoe-Moses cautioned that Ghana faced the threat of importing poliomyelitis from neighbouring African countries, and explained that the deadly childhood disease, which had not affected any Ghanaian child since September 2003, was reported to have been affecting children in Nigeria.
In another development the Upper East Directorate of the GHS, in collaboration with UNICEF and other partners, has launched the campaign with a call on parents to partner the GHS in improving the well-being of women and children, reports Benjamin Xornam Glover, Bolgatanga.
In the Upper East Region a total of 550, 123 children under-five years will receive polio vaccination, Vitamin A supplementation and de-worming treatment, while long lasting insecticide-treated nets will be provided for children less than one year.
Again a total of 40, 750 pregnant mothers will be de-wormed and given vitamin A supplementation.
Launching the campaign, the Regional Director of Health Services, Dr John Koku Awoonor-Williams, said since the launch of the campaign the country had not recorded any death resulting from measles , while measles cases dropped drastically from 34,671 in 1994 to 434 cases in 2005.
He called on all Municipal and District Assemblies, heads of households, chiefs and community opinion leaders to help mobilise their communities for a successful programme.
He commended World Vision International, the Red Cross and UNICEF which has given GH c 13,000 towards the training of Community Based Agents and providing 40,000 bed nets for distribution.

Accra health workers woried over cholera outbreaks (Page 43)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
HEALTH personnel in the Greater Accra Region are worried over the frequent outbreak of cholera in the region.
They have attributed the causes to poor sanitation, including open defecation, poor waste disposal, poor food hygiene and low level of hand-washing practices across the region.
Another cause for the disease in the region is the perennial water shortage, which forces residents to use unsafe water.
A report made available to the Daily Graphic by the Greater Accra Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Irene Agyepong, indicated an uneven trend over the last 10 years, which seems to go up in one instance, comes down later only to move up again in another year.
The report indicated that between September 4 and October 10, this year, a total of 22 cases suspected to be cholera had been reported in the Accra Metropolitan Area, with the bulk of the cases coming from the Ashiedu-Keteke and Ablekuma sub-metropolitan areas.
The report also indicated the epidemic periods to be associated with periods of rain, especially when the rains were relatively light.
A total of 319 cases were reported in 1998 out of which nine died; 3,147 cases in 1999 of which 21 died, out of the 1,840 cases reported in 2000 , eight died, while 42 died out of the 1,387 cases reported in 2001.
The rest are 2,044 cases with 47 deaths in 2002, 156 cases in 2003 when four died, nobody died out of eight persons who had the disease in 2004.
The figure rose to 1,812 in 2005, claiming 21 lives; 1,290 cases in 2006 with 21 deaths; and in 2007, seven people were affected with none dying from the disease.
Out of 22 cases reported this year, seven have been confirmed by laboratory testing as cholera, nine treated without testing, two confirmed negative while the laboratory results of the remaining four are yet to be received by the Regional Directorate.
Chorela is a disease that spreads through faeces. The cholera bacteria are passed out in large quantities in faeces.
To prevent the disease, residents have been advised to use safe toilets such as KVIPs or water closets rather than defecate in the open, always wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet and eat hot freshly prepared or heated food.
They are also to cover their food to protect it from flies, avoid food from food vendors with unsanitary practices and also report immediately to the nearest health facility any diarrhoea.

Experts discuss Malaria advocacy (Page 28)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
A DEPUTY Minister of Health, Dr Gladys Norley Ashitey, has said that Ghana is working very hard to ensure that 80 per cent of the population uses insecticide treated nets to protect themselves against malaria by 2015.
She said even though the country was still in the control phase of the disease, it planned to quickly progress towards the elimination of the disease in line with the global goals.
Dr Ashitey was addressing participants in Accra last Tuesday at the opening of a three-day annual international meeting for the Voices for Malaria-Free Future under the theme, “Consolidating Malaria Advocacy Investment to Date - Malaria Advocacy”.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr Ashitey said the country also had plans to strongly fight the disease by increasing the use of intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) for pregnant women, embark on indoor residual spraying as well as treatment programmes with new and more effective medication.
She also said the country was committed to the goals of the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP) which had the aim of eliminating malaria by 2015 adding that although Ghana, like many Saharan countries were still in the control phase of malaria, it was a critical part of the country’s plan to quickly cross that threshold and progress towards the total elimination of the disease.
She stressed that the achievement of this goal was not a dream but a course to which the government of Ghana was fully committed to and would like to maintain and strengthen collaboration with all its partners especially the Global Fund, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Department for International Development (DFID).
The Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP) came about when as major move towards elimination and eventual eradication of malaria, world political leaders and philanthropists launched a plan on September 25, 2008, with a promise of $3 billion to fight malaria around the world.
For the first time, GMAP selected 30 endemic countries and regions which included Ghana and 65 international institutions to accelerate the fight .
In her remarks, the Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), Dr (Mrs) Constance Bart-Plange said malaria control programme in Ghana was achieving positive results and expressed the hope that the country would soon be free from the disease.
She said her outfit had enjoyed very fruitful working relations with some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Ghana, especially, Voices for Malaria-Free Future.
In a statement read on his behalf, the WHO Representative in Ghana, Dr Daniel Kertesz said the role of communication in malaria control could not be overemphasised adding that a sound communication strategy would support the access of beneficiaries and consumers to accurate health information through a language of their preference as well as channels of communication which required the least effort to access.
He, therefore, commended Voices for Malaria-Free Ghana for the effort it was making to get the right message to the people through community advocacy programmes.
Oh his part, the Director of Voices at Johns Hopkins Univsersity/Center for Communication Programme in the US, Dr Matthew Lynch said in two years, Voices had become a valued part of the malaria community acting as a strong Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partner throughout the world adding that the group had a strategic approach to advocacy as well as working in partnership but not as competitor to other stakeholders in the fight against malaria.
The Deputy Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) who was also the chairman for the function, Dr George Amofah expressed delight that many individuals and groups were currently supporting the fight against malaria and expressed the hope that the fight would be intensified for the country to achieve its set target.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cancer Awareness Month-Wear a Pink Ribbon (Women's Page 17)

As part of the Cancer Awareness month celebration in October a pink ribbon is worn to recognise the struggle that sufferers of breast cancer face. This is done by survivors of breast cancer, as well as family and friends of survivors and/or victims of the disease and people championing awareness of the disease.
“Pink for October” is an initiative started by Matthew Oliphant, an international Information and Communication Technology (ICT) specialist who asks that any websites willing to help make people aware of breast cancer, change their template or layout to include the colour pink, so that when visitors view the site, they see that the major colour of the site is pink. Then after reading a short amount of information about breast cancer, or after being redirected to another site, they become aware of the disease itself.
In Ghana, information posted on the websites of a health-related non-governmental organisation (NGO), Mammocare Ghana, indicates that breast cancer is a disease which affects women. It adds that almost 99 per cent of all cases are women.
According to health experts, womanhood and advancing age are major risk factors for the disease.
The average age for diagnosis has been established at 48 and, indeed, usually diagnosed at 39 in women who are still menstruating.
Incidence in Ghana of breast cancer has been estimated at 50-70 cases for every 100,000 women. Another issue is that the post-treatment survival rate is very low due to the low level of awareness, late detection, and high cost of treatment in the country.
Indeed, breast cancer has claimed the lives of some of Ghana's most illustrious women.
Wikipedia encyclopaedia defines breast cancer as a cancer that starts in the cells of the breast in women and sometimes men. Worldwide, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer after lung cancer which is made up of about 10.4 per cent of all cancer incidence which affects both sexes. It is also considered the fifth most common cause of cancer death. In 2005, breast cancer caused 502,000 deaths worldwide.
Because the breast is composed of identical tissues in males and females, breast cancer also occurs in males. Incidence of breast cancer in men is approximately 100 times less common than in women, but men with breast cancer are considered to have the same statistical survival rates as women.
Breast cancer is typically a lump that feels different than the surrounding breast tissue.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the first medical sign, or objective indication of breast cancer as detected by a physician, is discovered by mammogram. Lumps found in lymph nodes located in the armpits and/or collar-bone can also indicate breast cancer.
Indications of breast cancer other than a lump may include changes in breast size or shape, skin dimpling, nipple inversion, or spontaneous single-nipple discharge.
Pain is an unreliable tool in determining the presence of breast cancer, but may be indicative of other breast-related health issues.
Unexplained weight loss can occasionally herald the presence of breast cancer as well as fevers or chills. Bone or joint pains can sometimes be manifestations of breast cancer, as can jaundice or neurological symptoms. These symptoms are "non-specific," meaning they can also be manifestations of many other illnesses.
Lower age of first childbirth (less than 24 years maternal age), having more children (about 7 per cent lowered risk per child), and breastfeeding (4 per cent) per breastfeeding year, with an average relative risk around 0.7 have all been correlated to lowered breast cancer risk in medical studies.
Studies have shown that plant oestrogen intake, such as from soy products, in early adolescence may offer protection against breast cancer later in life but plant oestrogen intake later in life is not likely to influence breast cancer incidence either positively or negatively.
A study conducted among over 17,000 women found that those who consume 40 grams of alcohol (about 3-4 glasses) per day have a higher risk of breast cancer. However, in women who take 200 micrograms of folate (folic acid or Vitamin B9) every day, the risk of breast cancer drops below that of alcohol abstainers.
To prevent breast cancer, health experts advise that one should take foods rich in folate which include citrus fruits, citrus juices, dark green leafy vegetables (such as ‘nkontomire’), dried beans, and peas.
Exposure to second-hand smoke from cigarette increases breast cancer risk by 70 per cent in younger, primarily pre-menopausal women.
There is some evidence that exposure to tobacco smoke is most problematic between puberty and first childbirth. The reason is that breast tissue appears most sensitive to chemical carcinogens (a substance which can cause cancer) within that age.
Prophylactic oophorectomy (removal of ovaries), in high-risk individuals, when child-bearing is complete, reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by 60 per cent, as well as reducing the risk of developing ovarian cancer by 96 per cent.
Breast cancer screening is an attempt to find unsuspected cancers. The most common screening methods are self and clinical breast examination, X-ray mammography, and breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Genetic testing may also be used.
A programme released by the Cancer Society of Ghana, AfrOx and the Ministry of Health to mark the Cancer Awareness month includes free screening exercises at the Odorna Clinic, Radiotherapy Centre at Korle-Bu, as well as at the Adabraka and Maamobi polyclinics, Ridge Hospital, La and Tema General hospitals and the Atomic Energy Clinic, Kwabenya.
The mainstay of breast cancer treatment is surgery when the tumour is localised. Treatment possibilities include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and immune therapy.
Individuals, especially women who are at higher risk, are expected to adopt healthy lifestyles and make conscious efforts to check any abnormality in their breasts, to ensure early detection and treatment of the disease.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

'Take immunisation programmes seriously' (Back Page)

THE National Child Health Co-ordinator of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, has called on Ghanaians to take immunisation programmes seriously.
That, she said, was to ensure the protection of children, especially those under five, from preventable deaths.
Speaking at the launch of this year’s Integrated Maternal and Child Health Campaign in Accra yesterday, Dr Sagoe-Moses cautioned that Ghana faced the threat of importing poliomyelitis from neighbouring African countries.
She said the deadly childhood disease, which had not affected any Ghanaian child since September 2003, was reported to have been affecting children in Nigeria.
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily through the faecal-oral route.
Polio epidemics have crippled thousands of people, mostly young children, and caused paralysis and death throughout much of human history.
Dr Sagoe-Moses said as of March 5, 2008, 32 wild cases of poliomyelitis had been reported in Nigeria, three in Niger, one in Angola and one in Chad.
Reports have it that Ghana has also not recorded any death from measles since 2002 and that there was a drop in the number of measles cases from 34,671 in 1994 to 434 in 2005.
She said, however, that people should not be complacent over these achievements but rather remain vigilant and also try hard to sustain the gains so far achieved.
Dr Sagoe-Moses said during the campaign, which is scheduled from October 16 to October 18, 2008, a series of services would be provided for children free of charge.
She said children under five would be given Vitamin A supplement, immunised against tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertusis, tetanus, yellow fever, Hepatitis B and Haemophilia influenza and also dewormed.
As part of the campaign, children below one year in the three northern regions and the Central Region would be offered free insecticide-treated nets as a top up to what had already been distributed to children throughout the country in earlier programmes to prevent malaria.
Speaking on the theme, “Healthy Mother and Children Make a Better Ghana”, a Deputy Minister of Health, Dr (Mrs) Gladys Norley Ashietey, said it was important for Ghanaians to realise that although they had invested and continued to invest in revamping the health systems, the country still had a long way to go in order to respond to the needs of every family.
She noted that campaigns such as Integrated Maternal and Child Health were designed to overcome some of the inherent challenges and obstacles that made it difficult to reach those who, for some reasons, were not able to take up services within the routine system.
The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Elias K. Sory, who chaired the function, said since it had been established that the routine services provided by health workers at the various facilities alone could not help solve the nation’s health problems, people would be encouraged to take advantage of such special annual programmes.
The Deputy Director-General of the GHS, Dr George Amofah, expressed the hope that Ghana would be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goal four (MDG 4) which touched on child health, adding that the country was on its way to eliminating many childhood diseases.

'Provide timely weather forecast' (Spread)

THE Minister of Communications, Dr Benjamin Aggrey Ntim, has urged meteorologists to provide sufficient and timely weather forecast, since a lot of human activities depend on such information.
He said the need for accurate meteorological information in Ghana was critical, since the country depended largely on hydro-electric power, adding that “the question of whether the rains will ensure all-year round generation of electricity at full capacity by the Volta River Authority at the Akosombo Dam keeps ringing in our ears all year round”.
The minister said this in a speech read on his behalf at the 8th European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMESAT) User Conference for Africa in Accra last Monday.
It is on the theme: “Use of Satellites for Monitoring Climate Change and Water Resources”.
The five-day international conference is being participated in by scientists, meteorologists, hydrologists, communication experts, among others.
The objectives are to inform African users of the state and plans of EUMESAT satellites, data, as well as products, in order to optimise the use of those data and products throughout the continent.
The conference is also to strengthen a well-established dialogue between EUMESAT and its main user community in Africa, especially national meteorological and hydrological services, as well as foster the use of EUMESAT data and products for various applications, especially in weather and climate forecasting.
Dr Aggrey Ntim said food security was becoming a major global threat which might endanger thousands of lives if EUMESAT in the developed world did not help to provide early warning mechanisms to support local meteorological and hydrological agencies to keep governments and policy makers alert.
He pointed out that accurate and consistent monitoring of the weather was key to human survival and called on meteorologists to explain issues of the weather in a language which the ordinary person would understand and make use of.
The Chairperson for the function, Captain Georgina Jopap, urged national meteorological agencies to collaborate to ensure higher standards in their performance.
There were messages from the Indian Ocean Commission, the European Commission (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the EUMESAT Secretariat.

Friday, October 3, 2008

EC to display voters' register on Sunday (Spread)

All potential voters in the country will have the opportunity to verify their names in the national voters’ register when the register is put on display from Sunday to Saturday.
The one-week exhibition will enable all those who endeavoured to have their names in the national register in 2004, 2006 and 2008 to confirm if that had been done by the Electoral Commission (EC) and will also enable others to heed the EC’s call to help clean the register of unqualified voters.
In addition it allows registered voters to ask for the correction of errors in their names, sex and age to prevent any disappointment on the voting day.
The 2006 register would also be on display alongside that of the 2008 provisional register to ensure a smooth exercise throughout the period.
All voters who registered in 2004, 2006 and 2008 are expected to go to their respective polling stations to check and ensure that particulars on their voters' identity cards tally with information in the register.
Ghanaians are expected to report incidents of death in the family and help with corrections such as wrong data and missing names.
Ghanaians, assembly members, family heads, Unit Committee members and relations of deceased are also expected to help clean the register by challenging unqualified persons such as minors and non-Ghanaians whose names are in the register.
The Director of Elections at the Electoral Commission, Mr Albert Arhin, appealed to Ghanaians to show commitment to the week-long exercise and help clean the register to ensure a smooth, free and fair election in December.
He said that the exercise would not be for fresh registration and persons who did double registration are also expected to get one cancelled to avoid prosecution and to ensure that the register was clean, accurate, credible, reliable and dependable.
According to EC officials, Challenge Forms would be available at all the polling centres for people to register their objection, or help remove names of minors, the deceased, aliens and other unqualified persons in the register to ensure that it was cleaned and ready for the 2008 elections.
At another forum later in Accra, the Electoral Commission announced that the list of voters who registered during the last limited registration exercise would be separated from the main register during the display of the full register scheduled for October 5 to October 11, 2008, reports Lucy Adoma Yeboah
It said that would enable the people in the communities to properly scrutinise the register in order to identify those who were not qualified but registered.
This was made known by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan in Accra today (Thursday) at the First Public Forum and National Meeting organised by the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI) in conjunction with the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG). It was on the theme “Cleaning the Voters’ Register for Peaceful and Credible Election in December 2008”.
Dr Afari-Gyan pointed out that the EC would have to rely on all Ghanaians to help the nation get a clean register because the commission could not on its own, identify those who wrongly registered since the personnel had no means of identifying them but rather the people in the communities.
He said the total of about 13 million people on the voters’ register out of a population of 22 million Ghanaians was on the high side, adding that there was evidence to suggest that there were registration of minors, foreigners as well as those who had registered before (double registration).
To avoid arguments at the polling stations on election day, the Electoral Commissioner said his outfit would discuss with the various political parties to decide on whether to challenge those suspected of being unqualified to vote so as to stop them from voting or allow them to do that since they already had identification (ID) cards.
He called on the government, the various political parties, civil society groups and the public to support the EC in its quest to get a clean register for the election, adding that “I believe most sincerely that we will have a credible and peaceful election, come December 7, 2008 but it will depend on the people of Ghana”.
Dr Afari-Gyan, however, cautioned politically aligned civil society groups not to make any attempt to apply to perform as election observers because the EC would not allow that.
Making a presentation on the activities of the CFI, the Executive Director of IDEG, Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, said the group had the objective to mobilise citizens, communities and civil society actors to participate in the forthcoming exhibition and clean-up of the voters register, decentralise the observation of the elections and any attendant run-off elections by getting citizens, communities and civil society organisations involved in election related activities at the constituencies and polling station levels.
He said it would also establish a platform to enable civil society actors to participate collectively in dialogue with the EC and political parties on matters pertaining to the efficient management and integrity of the electoral process, as well as the credibility of the voting processes and results.
Dr Akwetey also touched on the initiative’s aim of enhancing voter education, citizen and community awareness through improved publicity of all activities pertaining to the delivery of a clean voters’ register and free and fair, credible and transparent election in December this year.
Speaking on behalf of women’s organisations, the National Co-ordinator of WILDAF, Ms Bernice Sam, advised every Ghanaian woman to educate at least one person on election related issues in order to prevent election conflicts.
For his part, Alhaji Mohammed Mamah Gado of the Office of the National Chief Imam said the office had decided to use the various mosques throughout the country to advise Muslim youth against allowing themselves to be used by self-seeking politicians who use them only to abandon them after they (the politicians) had achieved their political objectives.
The Secretary-General of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr Kofi Asamoah, said organised labour was concerned about violence in Ghanaian politics and, therefore, expressed the will to assist the EC to get a clean register for the elections at all cost.
A Deputy Chairman of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mr Baron Amoafo, commended the CFI for its role in educating the public but reminded the group to collaborate with the commission in order to get the right message to the people.
The General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana who was also the Chairman for the function, Reverend Dr Fred Degbe said Ghana could do well by learning from the experiences of other countries and cited a case in Togo where unqualified voters failed to turn up to vote because the various registers were pasted at the polling stations for people in the community to scrutinise them.

Ghana to host symposium on breast cancer (October 2, 2008, Page 58)

THE Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, in conjunction with two international non-governmental organisations — Hope Xchange in Rome and Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the US, will organise a one-day symposium on breast cancer in Accra on October 16, 2008.
In addition, the group will on October 17, 2008, inaugurate a cancer centre it had, together with the Catholic Church in Ghana, put up in Kumasi. The centre will also handle eye surgery.
The Rector of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, Professor Paul Kwame Nyame told the Daily Graphic in Accra that the objective of the symposium was to bring together specialists from the US, Italy, Austria and Ghana, to deliberate on how to deal with the disease, which is gradually becoming a major health issue globally.
He said participants in the symposium would include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, women groups and others interested in knowing more about breast cancer.
He said topics to be discussed included the global situation of breast cancer especially the Ghanaian situation, partners in fighting breast cancer, treatment of breast cancer, critical role of education in breast cancer, patients’ perceptive of survival of breast cancer and prevention of breast cancer, if possible.
Professor Nyame said the symposium was likely to benefit a number of Ghanaian health workers who had over the years embarked on a series of work on the disease and cited Professor E.Q. Archampong of the Department of Surgery, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, as one such person.
In one of his write-ups titled, “Changing Patterns of Neoplasia: Cancer of the Breast”, Prof. Archampong said “breast cancer is a highly emotive problem, for this is the condition that has been killing our mothers, sisters and wives and recently in the African context, also our daughters”.
He noted that there was clinical impression of rising incidence in the Ghanaian population in recent years.
Quoting from a survey report, he said a total of 1154 cases of breasts were reviewed showing annual incidence that increased progressively from 25 in 1976 to 82 in 2003, a nearly four fold increase over the 25-year period and on average, a doubling of the incidence every decade.
“There were a few gaps in the data collected, so the incidence could be higher still, some 26 cases were male, an average one to two a year. The youngest patient was 21 years old; from this age the incidence rose sharply reaching a peak in the 40-49 age group. The curve fell off in similar fashion, without a secondary peak in the above 60s,” he pointed out.

NIB organises seminar on new banking product (October 2, 2008,Page 54)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE National Investment Bank (NIB) Limited yesterday organised a day’s seminar for pastors and church administrators on its new banking product purposely designed to offer financial assistance to churches for their development projects.
Dubbed the “NIB Churchlink Account”, the product is a hybrid of a current account and an investment account specifically designed to offer churches high interest, the flexibility of a cheque book and a loan facility when required.
Presenting the product to the participants, the Head of Marketing and Corporate Banking of the NIB, Mr Clifford Mettle, said the product offered churches access to an unsecured overdraft amount of 40 per cent of the their monthly credit turnover, adding that the loan was available for virtually every purpose.
He said the bank would offer, among other things, free financial consultancy services, weekly mobile cash collection service on Sundays and after any major fund-raising activity to protect the money from robbers, as well as provide higher interest on savings.
Touching on the necessary requirements to qualify a church for those services, Mr Mettle said a church must be legitimately registered, should easily be located, be constitutionally governed and must have a well-constituted committee in place.
He explained that if a church was interested in the product but lacked any of those requirements, the bank was prepared to assist it to put them in place.
The Deputy Managing Director of the NIB, Mr K. Owusu Tweneboah, said the bank had already assisted some churches, such as the Methodist and the Catholic churches, financially to enable them to put up structures on their respective university campuses, adding that the launch was to offer the same opportunities to others.
Speaking on the topic, “The Bank and Church Financial Management”, the Vicar-General of the Accra Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, the Very Reverend Father Francis Adobole, said the church could effectively perform its function of evangelisation if there were competent human institutions to support that work through other means.
He said since the financial needs of the church was unlimited, some unhealthy practices had been introduced into church worship by church administrators to raise more funds and mentioned the introduction of what he termed “multiple offerings” at church services.
“This practice is making poor church members uncomfortable, as they are unable to cope with the rate at which demands are made of them,” he noted.
Rev Father Adobole advised church leaders to take advantage of the NIB Churchlink Account to enable their churches to benefit.
He advised the management of the bank to take concrete and practical steps to do away with bureaucracies and encumbrances known to be associated with certain banking operations in the country to enable the target group to access the facility easily.