GES, WHO collaborate in Health Academy Schools project

Ghana’s Education Service and the Africa Regional Office and Headquarters of the World Health Organisation in Accra, have embarked on a six-month project named the Health Academy School project.

It provides health information to the general public and specific targets for the purpose of health improvement and was incorporated into WHO’s eHealth Strategy presented to the WHO Executive Board and to the World Health Assembly in 2005, in collaboration with other Clusters within WHO.

According to the WHO, the Health Academy Initiative, which is wholly being financed by the organisation is intended to provide health information to the general public through eLearning, and it is designed to help people make the right decisions about their health thus reducing disease.

The Health Academy was initiated with a pilot project in schools in the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2003, which according to WHO, provided a very valuable practical experience in testing the materials and processes of the Health Academy.

Since then, the outcome from the pilot has been used to guide its global growth in countries and the project is being expanded in Africa including Ghana and other parts of the world.

As part of the pilot in Ghana, School Health Education Program (SHEP) Coordinators from the Districts and Regions where the selected schools were based also took part in the Training of Mentors in 2008 so that they would be orientated on the Health Academy Project (HAP) and can follow up by including the project in the school health programmes in their districts.

Also, CD ROMS were reviewed to suit the Ghanaian context for use in the schools, ICT Coordinators/Mentors and SHEP Coordinators from selected schools were trained and a pre-evaluation exercise conducted before the commencement of the pilot.

Further, CD ROMS were installed onto computers for pupils/students to start, a post-evaluation exercise conducted and monitoring done to ensure its success.

Based on the enthusiasm to participate in the Project and the success of the pilot project undertaken in 2008, the Government of Ghana through the National School Health Education Programme Unit of the Ghana Education Service has been given approval to scale-up the project to 150 public and private Basic and Senior High schools across the country.

According to Ghana’s Ministry of Education, the scaling up of the HAP ties in with the Government’s initiative of providing the Basic School Computerised project currently being undertaken.

Speaking to this reporter after a presentation of 20 brand new Dell computers, 40 printers and accessories Wednesday, March 7, 2012, by the World Health organisation, Ms. Ellen Gyekye, Programme Officer for WASH in schools, SHEP/GES, said although the project is working with 15 courses, Ghana has adapted just four.

These are labeled “All the Way to the Blood Bank”, “Safely on Our Way”, “Safer food for Better Health” and “Staying Fit”. All except the third course – “Safer food for Better Health”, are divided into four units. The third course is divided into six units.

“All the Way to the Blood Bank” is directed to the young people who offer the greatest hope for changing the course of the epidemic and describes the various components and functions of blood, explains the importance of donating blood, lists the most common diseases that can be transmitted by blood, in particular HIV, and explains who is suitable to donate blood.

“Safely on Our Way” on the other hand, empowers learners to promote safe behaviour on the roads for all users, drivers as well as pedestrians. It is believed that in this way, attitudes and behaviour of whole communities will be changed, while learners may then advocate for the creation of environments where road traffic crashes are minimal.

“Safer Food for Better Health” focuses on safe food, as each year there are approximately 1,500 million episodes of diarrhoea around the world, resulting in over 3 million deaths in children less than five years of age. These mainly occur in developing countries, and over 2 million are estimated to have been caused by microbiologically contaminated food. It is meant to make learners understand the basic cause and effects of food-borne illnesses and how to prevent them, and also the basic principles of hygiene and effective ways to enhance food safety, through the Five Keys to Safer Food.

Lastly, in “Staying Fit”, WHO engages learners to think about their need for physical activity. In this course, learners are provided with knowledge to help them understand various aspects of exercise, body weight and body mass indices and will be required to develop an exercise workout and keep a workout log.

Schools in Ghana (15 each from each Region) selected for the project, include but are not limited to, Mmofraturo Girls’ JHS, St Louis Demonstration JHS and Opoku Ware School from the Ashanti Region; Sunyani Senior High, St  Paul’s R/C JHS and Techiman SHS from the Brong Ahafo Region; Tamale Girls’ Int. SHS, Tamale SHS and Tamale Girls SHS Pagnan from the Northern Region.

Others are St  Paul’s SHS, Denu, Anu School, Akatsi and Kadjebi SHS from the Volta Region; Lawrah SHS, Nandom SHS and Nadowli L/A JHS from the Upper West Region; Fijai SHS, Sekondi, St Mary’s Anglican JHS, Axim and Sefwi Wiawso SHS from the Western Region; UPS, U.C.C, Cape Coast, Flowers Gay Schools, Cape Coast and Anansi Tech. Institute, Cape Coast from the Central Region.

The rest are Ledzokuku Krowo Southern of School, Adenta Community School and Ashaiman SHS from the Greater Accra Region; Sacred heart JHS, Notre Dame SHS and Sandema Prep. JHS, Biulsa District in the Upper East Region and Odumase-Krobo School, Ghanass, Koforidua and Presec, Begoro.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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