Make health centre of development – Prof. Akosa

Prof. Agyemang Badu Akosah

Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, former Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, has called for the prioritization of health care as a means to attaining national development.

He said the state of health of the people should be regarded as one of the most important determinants of the rate of development of the country.

“The current social determinants of nation have caused the people to live in poverty and that carry high disease burden, which is linked with their compromised levels of nutrition, food security and their poor occupational and environmental conditions”.

Prof. Akosa made the call at opening of a three-day international conference on health on the theme: “Placing Health at the centre of Development in Africa”.

The conference, organized by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, was geared towards promoting an agenda of policy dialogue.

Attended by about 100 participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States of America, the conference would also provide the opportunity for participants to refocus on researchers, policy makers and the civil society on the issue of repositioning health as a centre piece of the development agenda for African countries.

Prof. Akosa explained that ill-health and high death rates hindered poverty alleviation and socio-economic development, leading to the rising level of unemployment, low education and low income.

“It is, therefore, important that policies and measures be put in place to give the prioritization of health care the attention it deserves to truly ensure the success of efforts aimed at bringing about poverty reduction and sustainable development”, he said.

Prof, Akosa expressed concern about the fact that living standards of Ghanaians have dwindled and attributed it to poor levels of social determinants.

He said the wider social determinants of health, which represented the numerous social and economic factors that were not directly under the purview of the Ministry of Health but impacted on the health of the people, had worsened the situation of the population.

Prof Akosa expressed worry that environmental sanitation and hygiene and malnutrition situation in the country, which has been considered as the bane of the health and service delivery continued to be great problems at the heart of difficulties of the health service.

He cited the Ghana Living Standards Report, which said 60 per cent of the country’s population had no access to public toilets, 87 per cent of children under five years were malnourished, 11 per cent of Ghanaian children have not entered into school before and  57.3 per cent of school children ended their education at the Junior High School level.

Prof Akosa called for the need to strengthen the health system and said human development index was important and not Gross Domestic Product.

Prof. Paul Schultz, of the Department of Economics, Economic Growth Centre, Yale University, who spoke on the topic: “Health and Development: Evaluating the Economic Impact of Health and the Effectiveness of Policy”, said estimated returns to human capital have been improved but nonetheless rarely used to evaluate policy drives.

He called for the need for Africans to invest in health and not see it as a just a human right.

Prof. Clement Ahiadeke, Director of ISSER, said he hoped the conference would re-ignite interest in a broad range of health issues and generate new ideas for tackling the most critical challenges of health and provide an agenda for health research  for the coming years.

Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, said Africa had not approached health in a structured manner and it looked like a parochial manner.

He said the University and ISSER would work to ensure that health research received the attention it desired.

Source: GNA

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