9,000 children identified, treated with sickle cell disease in last 27 years

Professor Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, President of the Ghana Sickle Cell Foundation, says the Foundation since its establishment in 1995 has identified and treated 9,000 children with sickle cell disease through screening of newborns.

He said those children would have lost their lives if not identified and treated.

Prof. Ofori-Acquah said this at a memorial service in honour of the late Professor Emeritus Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, Founder and Foremost President of the Foundation.

He called on the Government to support the Foundation in its quest to be able to screen 70 per cent of newborns for sickle cell disease in the country.

Prof. Ofori-Acquah said, so far, they were able to only screen three per cent of newborns in the country, saying, they needed to be supported to increase the numbers.

“We have been able to set up screening centres in all regions of the country, but not all hospitals have them. So, we are not able to reach and screen most newborns, especially those in the hinterlands.”

“We call on the Government to support us to be able to reach most parts of the country. If they could include the screening in post-natal care at hospitals and weighing centres, this could save cost and help reach most of these newborns,” he stressed.

He commended the Government for the inclusion of hydroxyurea, a drug for the treatment of sickle cell disease, to be covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Prof. Ofori-Acquah described the late President of the Foundation as a pacesetter and a man of unparalleled leadership and patriotism.

He said his vision and legacy was what had saved thousands of children with the sickle cell disease.

Prof. Ohene-Frempong was a world-renowned sickle cell disease specialist, Founder and President of the Ghana Sickle Cell Foundation. He passed away in the USA on May 7, 2022, after battling rapid progressive cancer.

He was also a professor of pediatrics and Director Emeritus of the comprehensive Sickle Cell Centre at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, USA.

Professor Ohene-Frempong was born March 13, 1946, in Kukurantumi in the Eastern Region.

He had his primary education at Kukurantumi Presby Primary and Middle Schools and obtained his Ordinary and Advanced Level certificates from Prempeh College.

He then proceeded to Yale University in 1966 where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and continued to Yale School of Medicine in 1975 to train as a medical doctor.

He proceeded to Tulane University where he established the Sickle Cell Centre of Southern Louisiana and served as its first Medical Director.

He also became the Director of the Section of Paediatric Hematology-Oncology and Associate Professor of Paediatrics at Tulane University of Medicine.

Prof Ohene-Frempong in 1986 returned to Philadelphia and became the Director of the Sickle Cell Programme under the Division of Hematology.

He did his doctoral thesis on: “Child Health in Ghanaian Community,” due to what he was exposed to when he worked at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi in 1974.

He thus extended his research work to Ghana and led the Philadelphia Hospital to team up with other stakeholders in Ghana to undertake projects in screening newborn babies to know their sickle cell status in Kumasi and Tikrom.

For years, he led in the development of sickle cell disease treatment centers globally, including the USA and Ghana, as the President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana and the national coordinator for the America Society of Hematology Consortium on New-born Screening in Africa (CONSA).

He was also a sportsman, who won many athletic competitions, especially during his secondary school days.

He was married to Madam Janet and had two children, a male and female, with the male child passing on at age 14 from sickle cell disease.

That sparked his interest in the treatment of the disease.

Source: GNA

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