Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zero tolerance for maternal deaths - Our target (health page)

THREE individuals, identified only as Jimmy, Priscilla and Elizabeth, recounted how they lost their babies under conditions they described as ‘avoidable’, in different health care facilities in Accra.
With tears in her eyes, Priscilla narrated before a sizeable crowd at a national forum on maternal health, how she narrowly escaped death as a result of bleeding after delivery. At the end of it all, she lost her baby.
Jimmy, who sounded emotional and occasionally had to stop talking to prevent himself from breaking down in tears, recounted how his wife, a first-time mother, nearly lost her life through childbirth and ended up losing the baby at a big government hospital in Accra.
For her part, Elizabeth told the painful story she had narrated many times, about the baby she lost at a private health facility she considered as a first-class one. To her, it was the case of lack of adequate professional and proper care.
In the three narrations and many others which were presented at the forum, one thing that ran through was that, at the time the women needed professional assistance, it was not received or when it was, it came too late, or was not available.
The forum being referred to here had the theme, “Stand Up and Take Action Against Maternal Deaths in Ghana”, and was organised by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR) in Accra, in collaboration with the Health Platform. That was part of activities marking this year’s “Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty” commemorated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The purpose of the national forum, according to the organisers, was to inspire action among all stakeholders in order to improve maternal health in the country.
The event is very important, now that Ghana has officially indicated that it was not possible for the country to reduce its current child mortality of 451 per every 100,000 live birth births as contained in the 2008 Ghana MDGs report which was launched recently. The MDGs report was produced by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
At the launch of the Ghana MDGs report, it came out that while the country is said to be on track to achieving the MDGs I and II which relate to the reduction in poverty and hunger by 2015, it was not likely to achieve goals IV and V, which involved reduction in child and maternal mortality.
Part of the report stated “Maternal mortality rate at 451 deaths at 100,000 live births is high and Ghana is unlikely to attain the target of reducing by three quarters, the maternal mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015, even though maternal health care has improved over the past 20 years.”
The national forum also came off at the time that world leaders were meeting in New York to assess progress made towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. In addition, the organisers of the national forum launched the second edition of the Civil Society Organisation’s (CSOs) Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) monitoring report produced by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights.
The content of the report, which was described by participants as excellent, is divided into eight main parts, namely, child health, care-seeking behaviour, sanitation, immunisation and maternal prophylaxis, use of treated bed nets, maternal health, HIV and AIDs and tuberculosis and malaria. The report also addresses the identified goals, targets and indicators of the official MDG list, as well as priorities indicated in the Ghana Health Service’s current Programme of Work (PoW).
The report which was reviewed by the Director of the Local Government Institute, Dr Esther Ofei Aboagye, was officially launched by Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin of ABANTU for Development. It focused on the performance and progress Ghana had made in achieving the health goals of the MDGs from the perspective of beneficiaries in those selected districts in the country.
Giving a review of the document, Dr Ofei-Aboagye named the selected districts as Agona East, Bongo, Builsa, Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem (KEEA) and Kwahu North.
She said the current report also expanded on the previous effort which involved three districts — Bongo, KEEA and Kwahu-North.
Dr Ofei-Aboagye said the low knowledge of the danger signs in pregnancy as shown in the report was a problem for which efforts to find a solution must be stepped up.
However, she said the report indicated that the fact that more women were participating in ante-natal care was rewarding, while the fact that women recognised the importance of formal facilities in the event of obstetric emergencies was also encouraging.
She also indicated that non-medical factors such as transport challenges to facility-based health care institutions in rural areas, attitude of care givers, differential interpretation of the policy on free maternal care and what the National Health Insurance Scheme paid for and what it did were still barriers to maternal health and, therefore, should not be ignored in discussions aimed at improving maternal health.
Dr Mensah-Kutin, who chaired the programme said it was unacceptable for a woman to be pregnant for nine months only to lose the baby or her life and called for concerted efforts to address the situation, adding that “zero tolerance for maternal deaths should be our target”.
Mrs Elizabeth Vaah, who set up the Vaah Foundation for Maternal Health after she lost her new-born baby in a hospital in Accra early this year, called on policy-makers to stop paying lip-service to maternal mortality and embark on urgent measures to address the issues.
For her part, the Executive Director of ARHR, Ms Vicky Okine, said the apparent sluggish progress in achieving the health-related goals required a new strategy and renewed commitment from both the government and civil society.
In her welcoming address headed: “Five years to move to 2015 - are we on track to achieve health related MDGs?”, Ms Okine said the apparent sluggish progress in achieving the health-related goals required a new strategy and renewed commitment from both the government and civil society.
She, however, acknowledged some initiatives undertaken by the government to reduce the high maternal mortality rate and mentioned the introduction of free maternal care in 2008 and pointed out that it helped nearly half a million more women to receive health care which they would not have otherwise received.
“These gains, notwithstanding, hundreds of people in Ghana and, indeed, developing countries do not get any health care at all, because there are no accessible health centres where they live or they are too costly to reach”, she stated.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A heart for life - Maintain a healthy heart (Health Page)

Cardiovascular diseases or diseases relating to the heart and blood vessels, are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.1 million lives a year. In Ghana, more than 60 per cent of adult deaths annually is due to cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include raised blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight, obesity and physical inactivity.
In partnership with World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Heart Federation (WHF), organises awareness events in more than 100 countries during each year’s World Heart Day. The events include health checks, organised walks, running and fitness sessions, public talks, stage shows, scientific forums, exhibitions, concerts, carnivals and sports tournaments.
The day is the WHF's most important advocacy event used to promote preventive measures to reduce cardiovascular diseases and stroke through the creation of public awareness of the risk factors of heart diseases and stroke.
The event began in 1999 out of the realisation that all World Heart Federation members could collectively help curb the global pandemic of cardiovascular diseases. Since that year, World Heart Day had been celebrated on the last Sunday of September every year. The annual slogan for the Day is "A Heart for Life", but each year the Day is dedicated to a special theme.
To commemorate this year’s event which falls on September 26 on the theme “I Work With Heart: Maintaining a Healthy Heart at the Work Place ”, organisers of the local event held a press conference in Accra on September 15 to launch a series of events. The programme is co-ordinated by the Ghana Health Service (GHS), the National Cadiothoracic Centre, the Ghana Heart Foundation, World Heart Foundation and its affiliate agencies in Ghana, the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ), among other organisations.
The concern of these organisations is to help people achieve a longer and better life through prevention and control of risk factors relating to heart diseases and stroke in Ghana.
The main function of the heart, according to information made available at the event, is to pump blood throughout the body. The heart, together with the blood vessels, make up the circulatory system of the body which is responsible for distributing oxygen and nutrients to the body and carrying away carbon dioxide and other waste products.
It indicated that indeed, the heart is the circulatory system’s power supply and must, therefore, beat ceaselessly because the body’s tissues, especially the brain and the heart itself depended on a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered by the flowing blood.
According to health experts, if the heart stopped pumping blood for more than a few minutes, death will occur.
It was also stated that the heart beats about 100,000 times in a day and about 35 million times in a year. For this reason, during an average lifespan, the human heart is said to beat more than 2.5 billion times.
With the human body containing about 5.6 litres of blood which circulates through the body three times every minute, the heart pumps about 1 million barrels of blood during an average lifespan, which is enough to fill more than three super tankers. This shows how important the heart is to ones survival.
In a statement at the press conference, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Dr Joyce R. Aryee indicated that the heart’s duties were much more broader than simply pumping blood continuously throughout one’s life.
She explained that the heart must also respond to changes in the body’s demand for oxygen, adding that the heart and the rest of the circulatory system can respond almost instantaneously to shifting situations such as sleeping, standing, lying down or when a person was faced with a potentially dangerous situation.
“This indicates that our everyday actions and inaction relate to the heart, and thus at the same time pull an influence on its proper functioning”, she observed.
Dr Aryee touched on the actions of some individuals which ended up affecting the hearts of others or their own hearts negatively and stated that if we all knew about the functions of the heart and how it could be protected, the lives of the more than 17.2 million people lost globally to heart diseases and stroke annually would be saved.
For his part, a renowned Ghanaian Cardiologist, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng said there was the need for society to lead a healthy life to avoid contracting heart diseases.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng who is also the President of the Ghana Heart Foundation said one was sure to have a healthy heart if one increased his or her physical activities, ate healthy food, avoid habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, burning of fire wood indoors, as well as burning of mosquito coils indoors without following instructions.
He also advised against excessive salt and sugar intake, use of aphrodisiac but urged people to consume food close to its raw state, adequate fruits and vegetables and visit the hospital regularly for checks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

306,592 vaccinated against H1N1 influenza

Sat. 18-09-2010
THE Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate says it has vaccinated a total of 306,592 people against the H1N1 influenza as of July this year.
The figure comprise 26,687 health workers, 15,811 security personnel, 24,496 pregnant women, 18,836 persons with chronic diseases, 12,867 international travellers and 207,895 members of the public.
As part of the directorate’s efforts to educate the public on the safety of the vaccine, the regional team headed by the Co-ordinator on H1N1, Dr Vera Opata, reiterated in a report that the vaccine, Pandemrix, was highly safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
“Pandemrix is what is used to vaccinate people in foreign countries before it was exported to our country”, the reported stated.
To ensure an H1N1 free region, as well as a healthy country, the health service had entreated the public who had not yet received the vaccine to do so at the public hospitals where few of the vaccine were available.
It pointed out of the 306,592 people who had been vaccinated in the Greater Accra Region, 360 persons, making 0.1 per cent had reported any adverse effects.
The report went further to state that all the complaints were based on what was classified as the common side effects such as headache, fever and pain at the site of the injection.
“We are assuring the general public that the vaccine (Pandemrix) is highly safe. Several clinical studies were done to ensure its safety to human beings”, it pointed out.
The report however, explained that the vaccine was for individuals between the ages of 18 and 60, adding that people who had previously had sudden life threatening allergic reaction to certain items such egg and chicken protein, a chemical called formaldehyde, gentamicin sulphate ( a form of antibiotic), as well as soduim deoxycholate should avoid the vaccine.
It also that stated people suffering from severe infection with high temperature (over 38 C) should postpone the vaccination till temperature subsides and also women in the first three months of pregnancy, as well as others who had once been infected with H1N1 influenza and had been treated were all excempted from the vaccination.
It pointed out that like all medicines, the vaccine could cause side effects, although not everybody got them.He went further to state that emergency treatment was available for use in case of individuals experiencing any form of reaction.
“Anybody who experiences any of the side effects should report to where he or she received the vaccination or the nearest health facility”, it pointed out.

Ghana on track to achieve MDGs


GHANA is said to be on track to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 1 and II, which deal with the reduction in poverty and hunger by 2015.
According to the 2008 Ghana Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report, which was launched by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) in Accra yesterday, available data collected in 2006 shows that Ghana was largely on track in achieving the MDG 1 target by reducing by half the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty.
The report, which was presented by Dr Peter Quartey of the University of Ghana, said that although current data on poverty was not available, trends in economic growth suggested that there was a further decline in poverty between 2006 and 2008.
Dr Quartey said some of the interventions, which had helped in the area of poverty reduction were the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy, Livelihood and Empowerment Programme (LEAP), the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and Micro-Financing Initiative among others.
He, however, indicated that the country was not likely to achieve goals IV and V, which involved reduction in child and maternal mortality, and called for concerted efforts in that direction.
Other targets that the country was having serious challenges with were: Combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and also ensuring environmental sustainability, which are goals VI and VII respectively.
In a critical review of the report, Professor Clara Fayorsey, Head of the Sociology Department of the University of Ghana, urged stakeholders to take cognisance of the micro-economic climate in assessing the progress so far made in the country.
She pointed out that there were times that statistics presented at the national level differed from the actual situation on the ground, adding that “Macro indicators are fine, but do not reflect adequately the micro situation”.
The UN Resident Co-ordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, Ms Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, said the MDGs had become a single development compact providing a remarkable framework for both developed and developing countries to work towards a common goal.
She said the UN system had, since the adoption of the MDGs in 2000, provided financial, technical, advisory, training, logistic and infrastructural support to the private sector and civil society organisations to deliver on the goals.
Ms Sandhu-Rojon commended Ghana for its efforts, saying that the country had been chosen from a few countries to gather evidence for international analysis on the MDG progress, good practices and experiences, as well as challenges and opportunities for acceleration.
In her welcoming address, the Director General of the NDPC, Dr Regina Adutwum, indicated that the 2008 MDG report was the fourth of such reports to be issued by Ghana and explained that there were others in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
She urged the country’s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), as well as institutions, civic society groups and individuals, to play their respective roles to ensure that the country moved ahead in terms of target achievement before 2015.
The Chairman of the NDPC, Mr Paul Victor Obeng, said people sometimes assumed that the MDGs were meant for others and rather advised them to consider the goals as their own and do well to ensure that they were achieved.