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Stakeholders debate on working together to improve health systems

Health and Lifestyle
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Accra, Nov. 23, GNA- Stakeholders at a panel discussion have called for the strengthening of inter-sectoral collaboration and building strong partnerships, to address health holistically for national development.

   The Panelists admitted that effective collaboration was key for the harmonisation of all the health systems at especially the grassroots, aimed at ensuring the total wellbeing of the citizenry.
   They also called for a massive national advocacy for attitudinal change, enhanced public education, stressing on areas such as personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness.
This will eliminate preventable illnesses, ensure community ownership of programmes and projects, and also the need for a critical look at coordinating all health interventions through a lead Agency, being the Ministry of Health (MOH).
  They said a change in the knowledge, attitudes and actions of all stakeholders was urgently needed in order to achieve the desired development of Community Health Systems.
    Speaking on: “Multi-Sectoral Action for National Development; The Role of other Sectors in the Development of Community Health Systems”, the five-member panel, agreed that factors influencing health outcomes were complex and extended beyond the provision of health care services and community health systems.
  Since many of these factors also fell outside the authority of the MOH, accountability for the progressive realisation of the right to health must be shared across sectors, communities and government as a whole.
   They agreed that working together however meant understanding every individual and all sectors, have a role to play, and must be seen as equal partners with the same shares and there was the need to design a benchmark, or a common indicator of what an average Community Health System should look like in order to work towards that goal for change.
     The Panel, which was made up of key stakeholder organisations, were represented by Ms Faustina Halimatu Braimah, the Ghana Education Service, Dr Gina Teddy, the Director of the Centre for Health Systems and Policy Research (CHESPOR) at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Dr Koma Jehu Appiah, IPAS, Dr George N. Rockson, the Director, Research and Innovation, Zoomlion Ghana Limited, and Dr Gloria Ansah, also from the University of Ghana Health Service, representing the Ghana Association of Quasi Health Institutions.
   “We must change the way we do things and think outside the box”, ensure local mobilisation of funding to address community needs, and further ensure the monitoring and evaluation of the services that were provided at the grassroots levels to see whether they corresponded with the needs of the people, they said.
     Dr Jehu Appiah in his submission, said 60 per cent of Out Patient Department (OPD) attendance would be eliminated if community sanitation challenges were resolved, arguing that such reports were made up of communicable diseases such as malaria, cholera, typhoid and hygiene-related illnesses.
    He rejected the notion that investing lots of money was everything needed to achieving health outcomes, saying although key, it was not always the problem, but a change in attitudes of the citizenry, taking the needed action, ensuring quality leadership, as well as proper accountability, were the key ingredients for the development of the nation’s health systems and the total wellbeing of Ghanaians particularly, at the community levels.
   The Panelists also identified community ownership of programmes and projects as a key building block to the success of health and other development outcomes, and suggested that the people at the grassroots be fully involved in the planning, development and execution of programmes and projects, to ensure a ‘bottom-up’ rather than a ‘top-down approach’ to addressing issues.
     Dr Gina Teddy, who played host to the annual event, said the health sector, reflected the essential contribution of good health to economic prosperity in current National Health Policy, and to this end, it was important that health systems at the communities adopted collaborative actions across sectors to ensure development at the grassroots and the entire nation, while working to attain other key global agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Universal Health Care (UHC) and Public Health Care (PHC) all of which Ghana was a signatory to.
   The Panelists concluded that the current desire by individuals, politicians and organisations for attributions rather than contribution, has led to the polarisation of health partners, and there was the need to engage credible leadership such as the Imams, Chiefs and religious leaders to achieve successes in various health interventions.
   Some audience during the question time raised concerns about the current disconnection among the citizenry resulting from the over concentration on curative rather than preventive health, and also the gradual loss of the Ghanaian values that brought communities together to do communal work, build a strong sense of ownership and belongingness and empowered their leaders to take action against negative attitudes of members.
    They also blamed the present apathetic attitudes in communities on negative partisan politics that had brought divisions into communities, and asked that the MOH leveraged its powers by doing thorough community diagnosis which should involve a cultural perspective where health interventions would take into consideration the beliefs of communities, the language barrier, perceptions, attitudes and strengthen data systems, so that they could design appropriate interventions to ensure effective outcomes. 

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