The Ghana Heart Initiative (GHI) project has been launched in Accra, to improve the risk assessment and management of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) that cause over 70 per cent of all deaths in the country.
The Initiative being rolled out on pilot basis in the Greater Accra Region within the first two years will involve assessing and managing of CVD at tertiary, secondary, and primary levels of care offered in public health facilities.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, with financial and implementation support from the Bayer AG, a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of healthcare and agriculture, is collaborating with the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to roll out the Heart Initiative.
At the launching ceremony on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director General of the Ghana Health Service, emphasised the importance of improving the treatment of CVDs in the country.
He said: “The whole society of Ghana as well as most other sub-Saharan countries have not woken up to the realities that these deaths are preventable through lifestyle modification and risk factor detection and modification/treatment.”
Dr Nsiah-Asare said CVDs were a major threat to the society as they affected the productive age group, the breadwinners in families.
He said CVD deaths were usually sudden and premature from strokes and heart diseases as well as the associated chronic kidney diseases.
“Unfortunately, our culture and belief systems still encourage, even the very learned, to attribute these deaths to superstition: bewitchment and curses.
Certainly, healthy diet, smoking cessation and physical activity as well as regular medical screening to detect hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia are the major steps in preventing these sudden and premature deaths from CVDs, he added.
He said the GHS would continue to support the initiative from the pilot phase to its full implementation to the benefit of Ghana and Africa as a whole.”
Dr. Emmanuel Odame Ankrah, Director of Policy and Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, MOH, who represented the Minister of Health, called for the strengthening and improvement of CVD risk assessment and management, which he said was one of the main challenges in achieving Ghana’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the health sector.
He therefore, welcomed the support being provided by Bayer and GIZ, and pointed out that the GHI-project was well fitted in the national strategy pursuing the SDGs.
He said: “The GHI project seeks to lay the foundation for good quality CVD care in Ghana, and it is geared towards human capacity strengthening and the provision of basic equipment at all levels of care.”
He reiterated the importance of “strategic partnerships for proper health interventions” and called upon “all the necessary governmental agencies and stakeholders to do their best to support this project.”
Dr Alfred Doku, a Senior Cardiologist and Project Director, GHI said the GHI concept would serve as prerequisite for a standardised approach in the management of CVDs for the entire country.
He said it would involve capacity building of all frontline health providers including; doctors, nurses and pharmacists in facilities within 46 health facilities in the Greater Accra region.
There would also be supply and the provision of basic equipment for risk assessment and the management of CVDs in a selected number of hospitals.
In order to support the health professionals at the various levels of health facilities in managing risk factors, prevent/manage complications, and reduce referrals, the project envisages a free telephone support service.
This Support Centre would be based at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital providing around the clock assistance to all medical facilities in the Greater Accra Region.
The staff will include; cardiology residents and specialists.
Dr Timo Menniken, Director General International Services, GIZ, said the Ghana Heart Initiative had been designed in an excellent way by incorporating the relevant stakeholders involving the Ghanaian national political system, the health sector, international organisations, researchers, practitioners and businesses.
“As GIZ we see ourselves as practitioners, facilitating and managing change processes in complex environments to contribute to international cooperation and sustainable development all over the world.”
He said out of the approximately 130 countries GIZ worked in, 80 countries of them directly worked to improve health systems, that had resulted in the establishment of 6,200 health facilities and enhancing more than 50 million people who gained access to better health services.
The GHI project, which commenced in November 2018 would come to a close in October 2020. Upon its successful implementation, it is expected to be rolled out to other parts of the country based on their needs assessment.