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Opinions of Monday, 27 October 2008

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Maternal Mortality: A deadly Public Health Issue, Affecting our Young women.

The statistic is very alarming: According to a news report on Ghanaweb, Dr.Alexis Nang--Beifubah ,the Upper West Regional Health Director said, “as many as 29 women died during child birth in the region alone last year” .Other stories had it that every day three in ten women die during child birth than any other minor disease in Ghana. That’s way too much death.

Yaa Ntriwaa ,a 25 year old lady, was in labor for several hours at the local clinic ,but she was transferred to Akwatia St. Dorminic hospital because she bled profusely and the local clinic couldn’t handle it. .Unfortunately, she died at the entrance of the hospital just as the car was pulling in. Her death could be attributed to lack of better prenatal care. Stories like that abound, every day in our Ghanaian villages and small towns.

Folks, the Jury is out and the verdict is not good news. According to national health statistics on women, a Ghanaian child -bearing young woman has a one in ten lifetime risk of dying in child birth than dying from any other minor disease other than Aids (HIV).

The maternal mortality rate in Ghana is no longer news. But, I wonder where is the outcry? .Why is it that their plight is not registered on the national Public Health’s seismograph? Yet, if there were epidemic killing citizens, it is most likely that the national attention would be focused on it with a laser beam. So why are we not screaming when we’re literally losing our sisters, mothers, daughters and wives to this deadly “national epidemic”?

The rate at which we’re losing our child -bearing women to death during delivery is alarming and disheartening, but there are possible remedies that we can apply to fight this enemy if only we can see it as a national health issue and deal with it as such...

In our part of the world, the maternal mortality is caused by so many factors, but the major ones are: anemia, infections, obstructed labor, poor nutrition, unsafe abortion and failure to seek medical attention in the early stages of the pregnancy.

Solutions: !)Family planning measures should be encouraged to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

2) Legal abortion should be encouraged in all clinics and hospitals to prevent women from using local herbs and crude methods to induce abortion.

3) Early Prenatal care education should be reinforced to stress its importance...

4) The government should aggressively encourage young women to subscribe to the national health Insurance plan and have a payment plan of GH2.50/month spread over 6 months , to make it easily affordable .Most young women don’t have health insurance and they only seek medical attention as a last resort ,instead of as the first line of defense.

5)If possible, the medical institutions should have visiting nurses to visit our pregnant women at home and advice them on their diet and a healthy lifestyle .

Yes, I know these suggestions are not panacea, especially if the national government doesn’t want to make this plight a priority in the health delivery equation.

Once we’re on the women’s health awareness let us add the prevention of breast cancer to the twist. According to the news report,” over 558 cases of breast cancer have been recorded this year at the komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, in Kumasi as compared to cases in 2007”. That is not something to write home about. To turn things around women need education and early breast cancer detection--- by conducting monthly breast self- exams, encourage clinical breast exams every 3 years and screening mammogram (an x- ray of the breast) every year. Yes, it costs money to implement all that. But, which is cheaper: Neglecting the life of a young woman or the cost of protecting her life?

There is a need to address the plight of our women on the national level .It’s an investment which we can afford, so as to decrease the number of children and husbands who are left without mothers or wives... Don’t the numerous funerals show how unhealthy we are as a nation? Enough young women have lost their lives and we’re still losing many more. But, where is the outcry? Or isn’t the health of our women forms an important part of the “national investment “equation?

Women and children’s health issues should be a major priority for our health -care system because without that the system loses its balance and vitality...

*Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA