The Ghana NCD Alliance (GhNCDA) has been launched with a called on civil society organisations to closely partner government to create awareness and prevent Non-Communication Diseases (NCDs).
The vision and mission of the GhNCDA is to create NCDs-free in Ghana by contributing to reduce NCD-related deaths and disabilities through health promotion, proper coordination, health system strengthening and improving the quality of lives of people living with NCDs in the country.
It is being sponsored by the Framework Convention Alliance, NCD Alliance, the Norwegian Cancer Society and the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a local non-governmental organisation.
The NCDs-related are noted among others as cardiovascular diseases, lung cancers, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, blindness and neurological disorders while tobacco and alcohol consumption and unhealthy diet have been identified as major factors by health professionals.
Mrs Magdalene Ewurasi Apenteng, the Acting Chief Director of the Ministry of Planning and chairperson for the occasion made the call when she performed the launch on behalf of the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo.
She said Ghanaians should make NCD prevention and control their topmost priority by avoiding unhealthy lifestyles and to engage in regular exercises to reduce diseases and the financial burden on the government.
Mrs Apenteng urged the members of the GhNCDA to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and other development partners to carry out advocacy on harmful effects of tobacco use, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet as well as the pollution of the air in the primary and the second-cycle schools to create awareness among the children as they grow up.
She asked the Alliance to set aside a day in every week for people to undertake some exercise of their bodies for them to keep healthy, saying “a healthy nation promotes prosperous development.”
Mr Labram M. Musah, the Programmes Director of VALD and the Coordinator of the GhNCDA at the presentation of programmes and activities of the Alliance said their main focus was on the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs later this year.
He said the members of the Alliance would increase the level of NCDs awareness and advocate government commitment ahead of the meeting.
He said they would hold strategic engagement meeting with the Ministry of Health and NCDs Focal Points, among others on the progress Ghana had made on the four time bound NCDs commitments; progress on National Policy for the prevention and control of NCDs.
Mr Musah said the Alliance would further hold strategic engagement with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health to discuss the need for government to give priority to NCDs as a threat to development and national agenda.
“We will develop materials and issue press statements and releases, hold radio and TV discussions in support of national and NCD awareness days; conduct a needs assessment to identify policy gaps and priority areas of intervention,” he said.
He said they would hold series of technical stakeholders meetings towards the development of the Regulations (Legislative Instruments) on the harmful use of alcohol and support the review and development of the national strategy of the management, prevention and control of NCDs.
Mr Musah said the Alliance would undertake screening exercises in some selected communities on high blood pressure, diabetes, and make referrals where necessary while continuing to raise awareness on the risk factors of NCDs, especially tobacco and alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
He said the programmes and activities of the Alliance would be conducted through collaborations and partnership support from the donors, government, international non-governmental organisations, among others, to achieve its objectives and beyond.
“Although some NCDs cannot be avoided, much of the global NCD burden can be prevented by addressing diet, physical activity, tobacco, and alcohol use and making the places we live in ones that promote health.
“Promoting healthy diet, physical activity, reducing alcohol intake, and tobacco cessation are simple and cost-effective measures to reduce premature deaths and disabilities from NCD,” he said.
Mr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Country Representative said the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health was one of the fundamental rights of every human being devoid of race, colour, sex, language, religion, among others as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He said: “Mr Chairperson, as Ghana strives to achieve NCDs targets, let us not lose track of our commitment to achieve the SDG target, especially Goal 3 which talks about health and well-being for all by 2030, which also has attainment of Universal Health Coverage as its main target.”
Dr Kaluwa said the primary role and responsibility for the prevention and controlling of NCDs lie with governments, while efforts and engagement of sectors of society, international collaboration and cooperation were essential for success.
He said effective NCD prevention and control required leadership and coordinated multi-stakeholder engagement at the governmental level and a wide range of actors to bring appropriate “health-in-all policies” across the ministerial sectors.
“People and communities should be empowered and included in activities for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, including advocacy, policy, planning, legislation, service provision, monitoring, research and evaluation,” he advised.
Dr Kaluwa said: “It is my hope that government will continue to provide leadership and support for the Ghana NCD Alliance to work effectively to complement its (government) efforts at reducing NCDs burden in Ghana.”
He urged Ghana to show commitment to the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs (2013-2020) that was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2013.
The Global Action Plan Provides Member States, international partners and WHO with a road map and menu of policy option which, when implemented collectively will contribute to progress on nine global NCD targets to be attained in 2015, including 25 per cent relative reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025, he said.
The Heads of State and Government committed themselves as far back as 2013 to establish and strengthen multi-sectoral national policies and plans for the prevention and control of NCDs, and consider the development of national targets and indicators based on national situations.
Madam Maureen Martey of the Ministry of Health said they were committed to dedicating funds for the implementation of plans and programmes set out in its medium-term development plan and programmes of work to ensure that offices created to reduce the death of NCDs patients worked effectively.
She called on all stakeholders to come on board to assist in addressing some of the challenges in the implementation of the NCDs interventions and commended the Ghana NCD Alliance for taking up NCDs to complement government efforts.