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General News of Wednesday, 7 April 1999

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World Health Day launched with focus on the elderly

Accra (Greater Accra) 7 April '99

Government has allotted 10 billion cedis to cover medical expenses for the elderly, children under five and pregnant women. The amount represents the 1999 allocation for the "fee free package" for those categories of citizens who attend government health institutions. Mr Samuel Nuamah Donkor, Minister of Health, said this in Accra on Wednesday when he launched this year's World Health Day, which is on the theme "Active Ageing Makes the Difference". The activities are being observed within the context of the declaration of 1999 as "International year of Older Persons", by the United Nations Activities are being focussed on the recognition of the important roles older people continue to play in society. They include radio and television discussions and launching at regional and district levels. Mr Nuamah Donkor said statistics indicate that older persons in Ghana account for about 8.6 per cent of an estimated national population of 18 million. To cater for their health needs would require a lot of resources, he said, and appealed to non-governmental organisations (NGOS) to support government in this regard. He also asked the Public Health Division of the Ministry of Health (MOH) to explore the possibility of providing geriatric care and other needed support at Day care centres established by HelpAge Ghana (HAG) at Osu, Bubuashie and Korle Worko, all in Accra. Dr Martin Peter Mandara, World Health Organisation Representative in Ghana, said there is now global concern about how to maintain the quality of life for the ever-increasing elderly population. To address the problem, he said, it is essential to put in place, measures that will effectively take care of the elderly. These include acknowledgement that older people are a valuable resource, enabling older people to be active participants in national, regional, district or community development activities and processes and provision of adequate resources to ensure health care and health promotion facilities for older people. Dr Mandara said it is also important to ensure the consumption of wholesome, balanced and healthy diet throughout life, maintaining adequate physical activity, avoiding smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption. He called on Ghanaians to embrace the "Global Movement for Active Ageing", which is a new WHO network for all those who are interested in moving policies and actions towards active ageing. In a message read for Mr Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, he said the ageing of the global population would figure prominently on the agenda of the special session of the General Assembly to be held this year. The session will review progress in implementing the programme of action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. Mr Joseph D. Mensah, Director of HAG, said older persons must be able to utilise appropriate levels of institutional care, provide protection, rehabilitation, social and mental stimulation in humane and secure environment. He recommended that efforts should be made at all sections of society to ensure continuous health education for both the elderly and youth with the aim of promoting active ageing.