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Health News of Friday, 6 July 2018


Government must share in efforts of reducing NCDs

The Ghana Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (GhNCDA) logo The Ghana Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (GhNCDA) logo

Government has been called upon to participate in the upcoming UN High Level Meeting (UN HLM) slated for September, this year to share in the efforts towards the reduction of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the world.

The executive members of the Ghana Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (GhNCDA) made the call when they paid a visit to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advisory Unit at the Office of the President.

Mr Labram Musah, the National Coordinator of the GhNCDA in an address during the visit said the UN HLM would be an opportunity for world leaders to examine NCDs within the context of achieving the global NCD targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He said the visit by the executives of the GhNCDA was part of their efforts to whip up interest in reducing the NCDs burden in the country and to raise awareness on the part of political and major stakeholders on the need to prioritise NCDs as a national issue.

Mr Musah said the SDGs could not be complete if there were no strategies or pragmatic measures in place to curtail the menace of NCDs and emphasised the need for government to as a matter of urgency, focus attention on the major NCDs risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol, physical activity and unhealthy diet.

He said the influx of shisha on the Ghanaian market recently was a great source of concern for the GhNCDA and that it had petitioned the Food and Drugs Authority to consider banning the shisha since many countries have done that.

Mr Musah said government alone could not address all the challenges but needed the active involvement of civil society organisations, adding that; “we have an NCD office within the Ghana Health Service but owning to insufficient funds, it is unable to play its role properly.”

The National Coordinator said both the National Policy and National Strategy in the implementation of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases 2014-2017 have all elapsed and that there was evaluation under way.

Mr Musah said the evaluation would inform future strategies and policy on cancer and NCDs after which a new policy and strategy on cancer and NCDs would be developed but the process has halted due to availability of funds.

He said the formation of the GhNCDA would support and complement government in diverse ways including technical support through policy formulation and reviews, awareness creation, monitoring, information sharing, research, and constantly remind government on its health and NCD commitment, among others.

“Nations are now embracing the concept of forming an alliances to help tackle the NCDs menace, which affect people in every country, rich and poor, old and young, in cities and in villages, the privileged and the vulnerable,” he said.

Mr Musah appealed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to use his position as co-chair of the eminent advocates of the SDGs to support some of the interventions in SDGs to demonstrate his commitment of reducing NCDs in the country and the world over.

Dr Eugene Owusu, the Head of the Advisory Unit of the SDGs at the Presidency commended the executive members of the GhNCDA for their commitment and passion for advocacy on health, especially NCDs, saying that, “the stronger your voice, the greater your impact.”

He urged them to let their advocacy work be evidence-based influence and approach and not just narrative, adding that, it must be driven by policy, which is key to the struggle.

Dr Owusu said goal ‘3’ (Health) and goal ‘4’ (Education) of the SDGs play a central role on which all the other goals hinge on.

He outlined the main core area of the Unit’s responsibilities as strategic policy issues around the SDGs and crafting advocacy messages around the goals.

He said among the Commonwealth of government, there was a recognition of Ghana doing well with the fight against NCDs and the fact that it was the first country that has eradicated Trachoma.

Dr Owusu said the problem of alcohol should be blamed on public policy failure and that the government had a duty of care for all citizens, which should be the entry point of the GhNCDA to undertake massive public education on the effect of alcohol intake.

“GhNCDA as a vibrant civil society organisation you can influence government on the operations of the tobacco and the alcohol industries since they want to maximize profit and availability resources play an important role in game,” he said.

He urged the Alliance to focus more on appealing to the conscience of the public, which has the power to override the so-called resources and the lobbying of the industries.

Dr Owusu, who is also the Secretary to the Inter-ministerial Committee on SGDs said shisha was becoming more fashionable and accessible because the space was not regulated and some business people had taken advantage of it and the only way to curtail this was by working hard to ensure that the unregulated space was closed.

Dr Owusu pledged his support to the Alliance to champion the cause of reducing NCDs in the country.