A five-year national action plan for health security is being implemented by the Ministry of Health to strengthen health system capacity to prevent, detect and respond to emergencies in the country.
Seventy per cent of the $96m initiative is being invested in priority areas such as surveillance, national laboratory network, workforce development and anti-microbial resistance.
The WHO Country Representative in Ghana, Dr Francis Chisaka Kasolo, who announced this in Accra last Monday, said: "I am happy to note that the country has developed the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS).”
He described the plan as comprehensive enough to prepare the nation against future health emergencies.
Dr Kasolo was speaking at the maiden edition of a quarterly seminar series on the state of the nation’s health organised by the School of Public Health (SPH) of the University of Ghana (UG).
It was on the theme: “Financing of public health emergencies in Ghana”.
Participants included experts and policy makers from research institutions, governmental and non-governmental agencies who explored the opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic had provided and also discussed sustainable approaches to financing public health emergencies in the country.
It was an initiative of the SPH, with the support of the Ministry of Health, the WHO and the Duke Global Health Institute in the US.
Expenditure on health
According to Dr Kasolo, African countries currently spent between $8 and $129 per capita on health, compared to over $4,000 by high-income countries.
He said 36 of the 52 AU member states spent less than the recommended $90 required to deliver a package of essential health services.
He said to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and financial risk protection, government expenditure needed to be in the region of 70 per cent of total health expenditure or more.
He said on the average, Ghana’s total health spending was lower than that of sub-Saharan Africa and lower-middle income countries.
Dr Kasolo, however, said the country had a relatively higher share of health spending derived from public sources, compared to out-of-pocket sources.
“The predominance of public financing for health is viewed as an important factor in the country’s improved health system performance.
“The UHC service coverage index improved from 41.6 in 2010 to 49.1 in 2019, with an average annual increase of 1.8 per cent between 2015 and 2019,” he added.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said the government was deploying the required strategy to mobilise more resources to prepare against future health emergencies.
In line with that, he said, it had started engaging various stakeholders on the need to help fund the country’s health sector against future disease outbreaks.
This was contained in a speech read on behalf of the minister by the Director of Infrastructure at the MoH, Dr Ben Ampomah Nkansah.
The minister also said the inadequacy of health infrastructure, such as reference laboratories, identifiable infectious disease centres and other sporadic distribution standardised primary health facilities to handle emergencies was one of the challenges that needed to be addressed.
Mr Agyeman-Manu added that the increased patient turnover and the number of prognoses of the COVID-19 pandemic deepened the financial strain on the entire health system, which he said required the government to review its appropriation to achieve its objectives.
The Dean of the SPH, Professor Kwasi Torpey, said the seminar series sought to discuss and find solutions to key public healthcare issues of national concern.
“They will discuss topics such as public health emergency, which is defined as the occurrence or eminent threat of a health condition or illness caused by an epidemic or a pandemic disease, or an infectious agent that poses a substantial risk to the population which leads to death or disability,” he said.