Ghana Public Health Association, a non-governmental, multi-disciplinary, civil society organization bringing together all people interested and active in safeguarding and promoting public health through professional exchange and action was launched in Accra on Thursday.
It seeks to harness the expertise of professionals in the health care fraternity for advancement of public health, promote effective communication among members and the public on health and health related issues.
The association would actively participate and influence health policies, programmes and resource allocation including human, material, finance and collaborate with individuals, organisations, groups and agencies with common interest in public health and related issues both locally and internationally for the advancement of health for Ghanaians.
Dr George Amofah, Deputy Director General of Ghana Health Service, said the association was set up to be voluntary and not political but strictly professional and open to all.
He said by June ending, its activities would be strictly business and encouraged persons in the field to join.
Dr Amofa announced that a draft constitution had been developed to guide the members on their day to day activities.
The launching coincided with an overview of the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, on the theme, “Towards Eradication and Certification of Guinea Worm in Ghana.”
Dr Christina Amoako-Nuamah, Presidential Advisor, launching the association, said Government recognised the prevalence of poor nutrition, sanitation and unsafe water as a major challenge.
She said it was to mitigate such problems that government adopted a multi-prong strategy which included active public education and creation of awareness on public issues through Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
Dr Amoako-Nuamah said a major tool that could sustain the collective efforts in attaining good health for all was attitudinal change and noted that it was important to focus on actions that would change the lifestyle of the citizenry and eventually make them less susceptible to preventable diseases.
She commended those who worked tirelessly on the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme for the country to reach the break in transmission stage and mentioned the Carter Foundation, UNICEF, WHO, development partners and other stakeholders for their financial and technical assistance.
Dr Amoako-Nuamah noted that “there is a renewed interest in public health in the 21st Century. It is our expectation that the association will forge linkages with other public health associations and relevant bodies to enhance its activities to achieve their aim,”
In his presentation on the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, Dr Andrew Seidu Korkor, Programme Manager, said the disease was one of the poor and a marker of underdevelopment, occurring predominately in areas that lacked access to good drinking water.
He noted that relying on village based volunteers for surveillance, case management, education; filter use and vector control the annual incidence from nearly 180,000 in 1989 reduced to eight in 2010.
Dr Korkor said the level of reduction in under five years was unprecedented in the history of the global effort.
He said Ghana was on the verge of breaking transmission after 22 years of hard work that had seen interruptions in activities and setbacks as a result of insecurity from ethnic conflict, challenges of novelties of health reforms and breakdown of water infrastructure.
“It is our hope that in July 2011 we will officially declare transmission broken, 14 months after the last indigenous case was reported,” he added.
Dr Sam Bugri, National Chairman, Guinea Worm (GW) Certification Committee, said to ensure a certification on eradicating GW, disease communities must be targeted for safe water supply and noted that public health should not focus on diseases alone but also to promote the benefit of safe drinking water as well.
He said that for the country to be certificated by the WHO, there must be a clear documentation of not actually seeing the disease for some years after the eradication and explained that Ghana was preparing to make the formal request in June this year and had put in place a committee to ensure the reporting.
According to Dr Bugri, if Ghana had heeded to the call to improve safe drinking water supply, the programme would not have suffered the many setbacks and would have eradicated GW long ago.
He called on Ghanaians to be surveillance officers on GW to ensure the full eradication of the disease and encouraged the public health to collectively make it a point of eradicating the disease.
Guinea worm disease is a parasitic worm infection that occurs mainly in Africa. It is also called dracunculiasis.
People get infected when they drink standing water containing a tiny water flea that is infected with the even tinier larvae of the Guinea worm.
Inside the human body, the larvae mature, growing as long as three feet.
After a year, the worm emerges through a painful blister in the skin, causing long-term suffering and sometimes crippling after-effects.
Infection can be avoided, even in areas where the disease is very common.Use only water that has been filtered or obtained from a safe source.
Keep people with an open Guinea worm wound from entering ponds or wells used for drinking.