Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases; some diseases associated with aging, cancers and mental health are responsible for the death of more than 94,000 people in Ghana annually, accounting to about 42 per cent of all deaths, at a time when healthcare costs are rising.
In wake of such alarming figures, Deputy Health Minister Alexander Kodwo Kom Abban, at an inaugural High Level Meeting (HLM) on UHC, in Accra, said the Government of Ghana is taking proactive action in responding to the NCD epidemic in Ghana.
The meeting, hosted by Ghana Non Communicable Diseases Alliance (GhNCDA) preludes an upcoming United Nations (UN) High Level Meeting on UHC, scheduled for Monday 23rd September 2019, in New York, where Heads of State and Government will come together to discuss how to accelerate progress towards achieving UHC by 2030.
Defined as a situation where all people, everywhere, can access quality health services without incurring financial hardship, UHC is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer, and vital for sustainable human development.
The one-day meeting will consist of two multi-stakeholder panels and a plenary segment during which countries will share their experiences and commitment to achieving UHC.
The concept of UHC is firmly rooted in the principle that the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental human right.
Mr Abban lauded the efforts of the World Health Organisation to have UHC on the global agenda, and reiterated that commitments to make UHC a reality globally, going forward, would rely on individual governments, making the right decision supported by right actions at the national level.
Dr Beatrice Wiafe-Addai, Chairperson of the GhNCDA, stressed that it was necessary to ensure that everyone enjoyed quality standards of care and financial protection to address the health needs of the people.
“In other words, without UHC, we cannot end the NCD epidemic,” Dr Wiafe-Addai said, as she stressed for better financial inclusion, especially for people in remote and inaccessible part of the country.
Mr Christopher Agbegah, representing the community of People Living with NCDs, reported that Ghana health system is under stress as a result of the rapid spread of NCDs.
He was worried that treatment of NCDs comes at a huge cost and undermines workforce productivity and the economic prosperity of the country.
“We need to begin to seriously consider how UHC might become the tool to both treat and prevent the NCD epidemic,” Mr Agbegah said, adding, “Ghana cannot afford to exclude NCDs from its national health and development agenda”.
The progressive realisation of UHC necessitates integration of NCD prevention and control in UHC design and implementation. When achieved, UHC can be a powerful tool to accelerate progress on NCD outcomes, reducing inequalities, socio-economic stability and sustainable development.
In advance of the UN HLM, the NCD Alliance consulted its network and arrived at five advocacy priorities for Member States to consider. The areas are to prioritise prevention as an essential component of UHC; provide primary health care (PHC) as the foundation for UHC; save lives by increasing equitable, universal access to quality and affordable essential medicines and products; increase sustainable financing for health and improve efficiency in investments and enable community engagement and empowerment in UHC design, development and accountability processes.
Ghana’s HLM, provided a platform for key health stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service, Civil Society Organisations, and People Living with NCDs to discuss NCDs in the context of achieving Ghana UHC.