Health literacy, particularly on reproductive health among the youth and general wellbeing, has become a global issue attracting rigorous research among health experts.
The need for research has become necessary in view of the information gap that could be created by illiteracy, thus resulting in misinformation and its impact on health education in society.
In Ghana, efforts are being made by health , to help create awareness and promotion of health education.
A young medical doctor at the LEKMA Hospital in Accra, Dr Emmanuel Amankrah (Dr Amanski), has taken the initiative by capitalising on the interactivity, universality, instant feedback, and user-friendly advantages of social media to offer health education in an attempt to address the problem of health illiteracy.
Dr Amanski has distinguished himself as a doctor with a passion for healthcare and innovation in medical practices, in anticipation of bringing new dynamics into the medical field through the use of the new media.
He sees the media as an effective communication tool and that identifies him as a rare ‘Medical Media Personality’, who combines social and traditional media to educate and sensitise people to health and lifestyle.
This makes Dr Amanski a familiar figure one YouTube, as his key channel where he regularly does health tutorials, gives medical advice and advocacy on health related issues.
“This was inspired by the 3rd Sustainable Development Goals (SDG No. 3) which is Good health and well – being”, he told The Mirror in response to the motivation for the initiative.
“When I started practising medicine, I realised that our major problem in Ghana is health illiteracy. This is the inability to comprehend and use medical information that can affect access to and use of the health care system. It exacerbates health inequity since those whose health/life expectancy is already low— such as elderly and poor people and minorities —are the ones without the ability to make health related choices, seek health related information or engage in health related communications. This leads to a lot of preventable deaths, so I decided to do more of ‘Preventive Medicine’, enlightening people about their health and empowering them with knowledge to make the best decision for their health” the young doctor explained.
LEKMA and Verifie
The attainment of Dr Amanski’s vision has driven his innovation and transformational leadership skills as exhibited in his roles as a Medical Officer at LEKMA Hospital and Medical Director for Verifie Health Ghana (VHG), an eHealth institution which aims at sensitising all sexually active people and people in the reproductive age to take charge of safeguarding their sexual health and that of the people around them.
The institution executes this task by providing not only guidance and counselling on sexual health-related issues, but also testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Besides, VHG also organises free STI testing and fun -filled education sessions on major university campuses through the “Let’s Have a Quickie” Project.
He explained that the STI education was targeted at young adults through to working class (19yrs-39yrs) in the universities because according to him, the youth enjoy a lot freedom at this stage and that require counselling them on responsible sexual health to avoid future problems.
Outstanding in Dr Amanski’s roles are his responsibilities at LEKMA Hospital, where he trains and teaches young House Officers/ Physician Assistants and medical students on internships and his contribution to managing the novel COVID-19, as a lead team member of the LEKMA Hospital COVID-19 team, as well as leader of the case management team at the hospital’s isolation unit.
He told The Mirror that his experience on COVID-19 management is also a motivation for his regular appearances on several media platforms, especially on TV3’ s New Day programme, to help decrease and combat stigmatisation against people who have tested positive and people who have recovered.
In his view, COVID-19 has new dynamics and that drives him to bring people who have recovered to share their story, thereby dispelling rumours and myths associated with COVID-19. This also encourages and influences to some extent the recovery process in people who have the condition.
“As the pandemic went on, we understood it more and more. My Mentor and Boss, Dr Joseph Oliver-Commey, one of the few Infectious Diseases Specialists in the country, always encouraged me and taught me a whole lot. Whenever I was in doubt he was always there to show me what to do and guide me”, he told this reporter, in apparent expression of gratitude to senior medical practitioners most of whom continue to encourage the young ones in the medical profession.
Dr Amanski says he delights in serving in the medical profession because the feedback on the job has been encouraging. He for example referred to the youth STI education project which he said “we had our doubts at the start because of how our culture makes it difficult to talk about anything sexual, but they had a lot to say, many questions and it was great to have a professional’s advice and educate them. Now people are not shy to reach out to us to take an HIV test or ask questions pertaining to sex”.
He revealed that the STI education project had succeeded in getting about 2000 people tested for HIV, explaining that those who were positive were enrolled in Antiretroviral Therapy Clinics in varying locations.
Citing the management of STIs, Dr Amanski indicated that the country’s culture posed a challenge to health delivery, because it made it difficult for people to come out to talk about sex, ask questions about sex and also to even bring a complaint of an STI symptoms to a health care provider for fear of being judged or being seen as a promiscuous person.
“At Verifie, our strategy has always been to create a safe and confidential environment so we can break down those walls so people can be free to talk. We also work with clinical psychologists who interact with people to help them overcome their fears”, he stated.
He added: “The most challenges I have faced personally is due to the fact that I’m going against the status quo. People are not used to a doctor on TV, social media and on YouTube. They’re used to a conservative doctor on the consulting room. Other challenges are our poor health system and poor working conditions,” Dr Amanski expressed concern.
He said he was thankful for what he described with excitement as a supportive team and supportive hospital management that made it enjoyable to do what they do in providing health care for the nation.