Health News of Friday, 28 September 2012
Source: Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
……A dream of a healthy and wealthy Ghana where Peace reigns supreme. A Ghana that the whole world takes pride in. A Ghana rid of Cholera-inducing filth.
We all dream; some do while they sleep, others dream with their eyes wide open and make the world a better place. Some do both and quite a significant number dream when they are fast asleep often induced by alcohol and a traumatized stomach.
If you have not heard about increases in cases of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol as well as deaths caused by these life-style diseases then you probably have been spending too much time dreaming while asleep. These diseases are referred to as non-communicable diseases which in short mean they are not spread from one person to another. This is in contrast to the communicable ones such as cholera, sexually transmitted infections et cetera. Unfortunately for us in Ghana and many developing countries we are still unable to control the communicable diseases and have worsened our condition by “importing” the non-communicable diseases too.
We seem to be focusing all our energy on putting up new health facilities. There is no or little mention of maintenance of the current ones. The vast majority of people do not have access to these facilities anyway and our mentality appears to be one of curing people instead of focusing on prevention. I believe in top-notch hospitals but as a country we should spend more resources on preventive measures; not only will it cost us less in the long run, our health professionals will not be overstretched and will spend more time on patients who are in a critical state.
We do not have a national policy on keeping us healthy? There are rumours of draft policies, whispers of setting up a task force to change the face of the non-communicable diseases that are haunting us with a vengeance. When will all these thoughts see the light of day? We do not always have to wait for external funding to help us. Why can’t provision be made in our budget for preventive health?
I took part in the Peace March on 21st September and I was quite disappointed. We had an opportunity to improve our health while making a strong statement about peace in our land and most of us were too busy doing other things or simply “tired”. I was really looking forward to seeing various corporate bodies and other groups making an appearance but alas that dream did not materialize.
My dream of a healthy Ghana does not ask for much but requires commitment:
1. Provision in the budget for preventing especially the non-communicable diseases, which seem to have been neglected.
2. A wellness programme in every workplace
a. I have been trumpeting this for years now. It has been proven to be the most effective way of reducing health care bills.
b. Not only do such programmes enhance the performance of staff, they also encourage strong work bonds, which also tend to benefit the business.
3. Locality based free wellness programmes
a. I bet you this will cost much less than 5 gas-guzzling V8 SUVs in a whole year and the benefits or return on investment will be enormous.
b. We could have 2 –one hour exercise and health education sessions in each market every day.
c. Such exercise and education sessions could also be made available at constituency levels.
The argument that exercising or staying healthy is a choice may not be a very sound one. If it had been left for consumers to choose between a type-writer and a computer we would probably still be using very fast but quiet type-writers. What a better place the world is because of computers. In the same vein some people may not realize how crucial keeping healthy is. You can guess the implication.
4. Focusing on a disease each year and setting targets
a. Certainly Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health have a health calendar and there are often attempts at bringing some diseases to the fore on specific days in the year. That is a great idea, lets maintain it and strengthen it but we need to spend a lot more time on some conditions so that we flood the citizenry with information. I believe over time some things will stick. We could take diabetes for instance in year 1 and work at ensuring that every person living in Ghana has the needed information that includes:
i. Those at risk – family members with disease, obese individuals, those living a sedentary lifestyle, the elderly. The aim is raising awareness so that those at risk work even harder.
ii. Discuss the ways that diabetes may present to the extent that even preschool children can sing along
iii. Set targets for everyone including minimum physical activity in the day
iv. Encourage healthy eating
v. Emphasis on what those living with the condition need to do.
vi. Have a critical percentage of people checked for diabetes. This is so crucial because many people will feel perfectly well or may not have the classic symptoms of diabetes yet they may be diabetic.
vii. The icing on the cake could be if a prominent lady or ladies also adopt the same disease state and preach on it.
viii. The awareness creation should be through the media, schools, churches, local wellness groups, corporate wellness programmes, “health breaks” in the workplace, lunch and learn programmes etc.
I dream that we can reach all the corners of our dear country, touch lives and make them more productive while reducing their health care bills and hence creating wealth for individuals and the nation as a whole.
Year 2 could be hypertension but there will be periodic reminders of the disease tackled in year 1. This is possible!
5. Training children while they are “young”
a. Physical education (PE) sessions in school are rare these days. Children are too busy studying or at least our educational system makes it appear that way. I am certain if children have sessions in school teaching them how to eat properly and also have specific times on their schedules to engage in exercises, not only will they develop this habit early in life but they will also impart their “new found” knowledge to their parents and other adults they interact with.
6. Health insurance premiums reduced when certain goals are attained
a. As developing countries we have some advantages and one of them is; we do not need to re-invent the wheel in a variety of situations. If others have struggled for years to arrive at a way of life we can adopt this and make modifications to suit our peculiar situation. To make a healthy life style more attractive, insurance premiums could be reduced for people who attain certain goals or some money could be paid back to such people. This will also benefit the insurance company since “the love of the money or incentive” will encourage more people to adopt the healthy lifestyle and reduce hospital utilization rates. This may also translate into fewer sick days (less absenteeism and presenteeism) which will bring happiness to the employer. Easy goals to set may include reducing your blood pressure by certain points or setting arbitrary figure e.g. less than 130/80mmHg for participants in the programme to be at or below this figure. We could also require every participant to have a BMI not greater than 27 (or 25 if we are more comfortable with that but provision should be made for those with very high BMIs already. They should be encouraged to reduce it gradually) and a blood sugar not exceeding a selected healthy value. The possibilities are endless.
I am sure there are others who share in this dream but we can all help to make this dream possible; be the change maker in your corner starting today.
LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY!
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club
*Dr Essel is a medical doctor and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.
Thought for the week – “YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY – TAKE CONTROL”