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NCDs under resourced: General health swallows $90m, mental health/NCDs take $1m - Study

BY: Rebecca Quaicoe Duho
 Prof. Alfred E. Yawson — Dean of the University of Ghana Medical School
Prof. Alfred E. Yawson — Dean of the University of Ghana Medical School

A study in 2021 on how resources are allocated to programs at the Ministry of Health (MoH) has shown that over $90 million was spent to strengthen the general health system, as against $1 million on mental health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The Resource Mapping Study, funded by the World Bank, also identified that $54 million was spent on malaria control activities and $53 million on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

The Dean of the University of Ghana Medical School, Prof. Alfred E. Yawson, made this known at an NCD partners’ forum organised by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and PATH Ghana, a non-profit health organisation.

Quoting a 2021 data from the MoH on disease conditions that were killing Ghanaians, Prof. Yawson said more than six of them were directly related to NCDs.

“So why should it be that the things that are killing your people are the things on which the least money is spent? That is where the policy challenge is,” he said.

The first six of the top 10 most common causes of death in the country are hypertensive heart diseases, cardiovascular diseases, septicaemia (blood poisoning) pneumonia, other diseases of the digestive system and other unspecified diseases of the respiratory system.

He said the issue of financing NCDs had been well articulated in the new National Policy on NCD, which he said needed to be turned into implementable actions and called on partners to support by coordinating all activities for them to become mutually beneficial.

“We need to put the priority where it is needed,” Prof. Yawson stressed.

Disease burden

He said the disease burden of NCDs would increase in the next decade, as 11.9 per cent of the country’s population would be above 60 years by 2050, as against 6.5 per cent in 2010.

That, he said, would lead to an increase in chronic degenerative conditions and an increase in cost of health care and pensions, a situation which “the country cannot sleep over”.

Prof. Yawson said that was the time for the country to put in place good geriatric care (relating to old people) to provide for the aging population.

He advised health authorities to start planning for such care, including palliative care, in the next five years, as there was no comprehensive care among the aged population for that population to live longer.

Obesity

Speaking on obesity and overweight, Prof. Yawson said that had become a pandemic not only among the affluent in society but also across all sections of the population due to lifestyle changes.

He was particularly worried about the rate of obesity and overweight among some groups of children, saying it had become chronic especially in children of school age, a situation which he said was worrying, as it could continue into adulthood, leading to NCD among them.

He recommended the need to develop a national research agenda with NCDs as an integral component with stakeholders, saying that would stimulate the necessary drive, generate the required evidence and provide succinct interventions to accelerate efforts towards significantly reducing the burden of NCDs.

Socio-economic implications

The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, in a statement, said NCDs had socio-economic implications on the country, as they afficted young and old, urban and rural, wealthy and poor communities, saying that addressing them would go a long way to enhance the socio-economic status of the country.

He said awareness of NCDs was generally low among policymakers, health workers, persons living with NCDs and the general population.

Dr Kuma-aboagye said a landscape assessment on NCDs conducted in 2020 reported that only 19.2 per cent of respondents at the national level knew about the country's NCD policy and strategy.

Revised NCD policy

The acting Programme Manager, NCD, Dr Efua Commeh, who spoke on the Ghana Revised NCD Policy Strategy, said the policy offered an opportunity for the Strategy, said the policy offered an opportunity for the country to make progress toward achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

However, she said, that required strong leadership and dedicated partnerships to ensure that strategic objectives could be achieved.

PATH

The Country Director, PATH Ghana, Dr Patience Cofie, after a presentation on PATH's NCDs tool, dubbed: 'Navigator', which is used in collecting and analysing data, said so far the tool was being used in 12 of the 16 regions and gave an assurance that it would be scaled up to the remaining for regions soon.

That, she said, would help provide comprehensive data for informed decision-making, prioritisation of resources and coordination among the government and stakeholders.

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