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Ghana: On the Path to Sustainable Rural Health Care

March 05, 2014

By: Adedamola Olusola Jayeola, Loyalist Advertising and Marketing Communications Student

In early 2013, I was on an international work exchange program at the Department of Public Relations (Administration) at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in Ghana. It served as a volunteer experience and also a vacation for me. I was able to clear my head, see the rest of West Africa and plan my move to Canada later in the year.

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UCC is one of Ghana’s premier universities. It was established in 1962 by the Kwame Nkrumah administration at the peak of the neo-African liberal movement. This institution is quite unique because it is one of the few universities in Africa that overlooks a body of water. It sits on a beautiful beachfront overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Even though I work in communications, I have a strong interest in health related issues because of my medical background. Therefore, when the opportunity came to join my department’s team on the University’s School of Medical Sciences’ (UCCSMS) rural outreach program, I was over the moon!

The School of Medical Sciences at UCC has a three-week, full residential Community Based Experience and Service (COBES) program for its second-year medical students. This aspect of the training, which constitutes an integral part of the school’s curriculum, places emphasis on research and minimal medical intervention. The primary objective is to expose students to rural life and the dynamics of health care delivery at this level.

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The 2013 module, which happened to be the third of its type, was hosted by Oda Adjobue, a remote community located in Akyem Mansa district of Ghana’s Eastern Region. It turned out to be a huge success for the medical school and its students.

For the faculty, it was an opportunity to test-run what could be the country’s steady path to satisfactory health care provision. As for the students, through clerking with the locals, they were able to see the lifestyle experienced in rural areas.

From cases of low to zero family or personal income, to sociocultural ills like witchcraft accusations and punishment and the impact of alternative medicine, it was a life changing experience that drew appreciation to some of the factors affecting primary healthcare delivery.

The program was closed with a town durbar where the community residents, committee of elders, school faculty, and other stakeholders had an appraisal of the outreach. It was heartwarming listening to the students who, working in groups, had done their bit in bringing solutions to some of the problems they encountered. Plans for libraries, study materials and fundraising were initiated. It was interesting how, in just three weeks, these future doctors had grown from being strictly academically-minded to become psychologists, sociologists, counsellors and philanthropists.

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A view from one of the residential halls. In the background are the campus market and the Atlantic Ocean.

The progress made through the program is exciting but there is still much work to be done in Ghana. While the government did contribute 12.5% of its 2013 budget to its health sector, stronger commitment is needed for the delivery of health care to its growing population, 50% of which, according to the World Bank, still live in rural areas like the Akyem Mansa district.

Healthy people are a prerequisite for a healthy environment and economy and vice-versa. This means access to basic health care at all levels of society is necessary to achieve sustainable development. As the United Nations prepares to map out the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through member countries post-2015, a call to action on global healthcare is growing louder.