Think about the last time the media provided a report on health conditions in Africa. More than likely it was a segment on some horrible, severe condition that would prove to be fatal if left untreated such as HIV, malaria, cholera or tuberculosis. It is unfortunate that our image of the state health in Africa consists of reports about people suffering from these ailments for multiple reasons.
First, these pictures reinforce the negative portrait that is exaggerated and often untrue. The negativity has the additional consequence of creating a climate in which large scale investment in the future of the continent is limited.
Secondly, Africans suffer from a variety of non-communicable ailments that do not receive the proper amount of attention from the media. The structure of current medical care in Africa prevents the population from receiving the necessary ongoing care for these ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer and depression.
With these obstacles in mind, a Ghanaian American, Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, has formed the organization “Africa Health Now” to begin changing the manner in which medical care is delivered in Africa. Through the work of her organization she hopes to create a new health care paradigm for Africans and re- focus the direction of individuals regarding their wellness.
Growing up in Virginia, Ms. Eyeson-Akiwowo did not spend too much time thinking about care back home in Ghana. That is, until a day in 2006 when she received a call from a family member in Accra telling her that her father was in hospital as a result of a “heart ailment”. Luckily a friend in Ghana was able to locate her father and provide some information on his condition to the family in the USA.
The hours of uncertainty as well as fear led Ms. Eyeson –Akiwowo to begin a serious review of basic health care in Ghana and in Africa in its entirety. This led to the formation of Africa Health Now (AHN).
The organization holds a health fair in Accra, usually around the December holiday season which teams up medical students and nurses from Ghana with volunteers in the medical profession in the USA. The fair also provides workshops on symptoms and the management of chronic conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol levels as well as discussions of more culturally taboo subjects such as mental health and cancer.
Each fair attendee is provided with a basic health screening as well as printed materials regarding the issues of concern to them. Additionally, each attendee is provided with a personal medical record with suggestions for ongoing management of health concerns.
The goal of AHN is to eventually schedule multiple fairs in a numerous localities throughout the year as well as tailor the events for specific groups in a population (such as women only events or pediatric events) as well as regularize the wellness of a population by increasing the use of self-examinations and access to latest information on health and diet. Ms. Eyeson- Akiwowo also hopes to eventually expand this initiative to other countries beyond her native Ghana.
The Africa Health Now model is an excellent beginning to turn the tide against health challenges afflicting people on an everyday basis. There are two basic obstacles that this program overcomes. First, it takes into account local cultural concerns and needs and tailors its an appropriate system response. Second, the organization organizes these fairs in communities, an approach which works well according to experts in the field.
Africa Health Now has begun the long and difficult work of bringing some regularity to the wellness of the people of Ghana. Let’s hope that the world responds and helps to support this important initiative.
by Robert Bernstein, Events Editor.
Africa Health Now can be accessed on the web at: www.africahealthnow.org