Health is wealth. This is one statement that is often repeated when there is the need to stress why it is important to maintain the highest standard of well-being. For some people, this statement is often taken for granted not by openly saying health is not important but due to the action taken in relation to what should be done to maintain perfect health status. It will be recalled that in the latter part of the last millennium, there was a slogan – HEALTH FOR ALL BY THE YEAR 2000. Unfortunately, the year 2000 came too soon and that goal was not realised. It must be stated that the mere fact that that declaration was made showed the need to radically move from the status quo. To a large extent, it gave the global community some sense of urgency to improve the deteriorating health status of the population of many developing countries.
Ghana had had what was called the Danfa project to address this concern. Essentially, the medical model of health has informed many decisions in the health sector. Preventive Health care became relevant so that health centres will not be choked. Health Professionals did not need to wait to treat signs and symptoms but move to the communities to address the root cause of ailments. For example, instead of waiting to treat diarrhoea and cholera, it was necessary to tackle sanitation issues. Thus improving the environment was seen as an essential part of ensuring healthy lives. In addition improved water treatment, vector control and simple ways of hand washing go a long way to help the cause of primary healthcare. These informed the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as a complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease.
In 1978, the International Conference on Primary Health Care at Alma Ata in the then Kazakhstan defined primary Healthcare as “essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the communities through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination.” Long after the Alma Ata declaration looked at Primary Health Care, there is the need to assess the progress made so far globally. The Millennium summit brought in the Millennium Development Goals which devoted much attention to health issues. The MDGs were replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and yet the world continues to talk about a myriad of challenges in the health sector.
It is good to once again say that realizing the goals in the SDGs will mean staying healthy. Any economic or social development can be eroded if the people are not healthy. The issues of Primary Health Care are important in this regard. The Universal Access to health care campaign should not be seen as a mere slogan. It is at the very base of development and deserves more investment. It is good to note that the President’s nominee for the health ministry has mentioned issues relating to health insurance. Therefore primary Health Care should be given the necessary attention, so that the health bills reduce. Once we have agreed that health is not the sole responsibility of the health ministry but a cross-cutting issue between different ministries with community collaboration, it is time to get all shoulders to the wheel.
The appeal is for the media not to skew attention to only the political issues that titillate but to devote attention to the issues that affect the total well-being of Ghanaians.
BY KINGSLEY OBENG-KYEREH, MEDIA PRACTITIONER.