Richard Arthur-Norman: The multi-sectoral definition of health in Ghana

One of the things that is evidently clear in Ghana is the fact that health is influenced by a lot of factors. It is one sector of our economy that is instrumental to a lot of other sectors as well.

The determinants of health traverse across numerous fields and areas of human life. This means that we cannot tackle our health problems in isolation from other primary and secondary sectors of the economy such as agriculture, mining, construction, processing and construction. We must also make mention of the fact that health conditions are also intertwined with sanitation, economic management, available social interventions, among others.

In view of this, holistic healthcare can only be achieved if the various interconnected sectors of the economy that impact directly and indirectly on health are allowed to also play their essential roles in ensuring that good health for all is achieved.

Economic conditions such as the cost of living and the standard of living have a major effect on health. It affects a lot health decisions we make; from eating balanced and health diet as a preventive health measure to our choice of quality healthcare.

All these choices are influenced by our type of work, how much money we earn, how much we are able to spend, what is available, and what we can buy. That is to say that when someone falls ill, whether or not he or she will choose some local herbal concoction or will decide to travel about a mile from his or her village to the nearest health post, is determined by the economic status of the person. And when we really want to assess the impact that financial conditions have on health, we can only look at the poor in society and use them as the bench mark because it will be delusionary to make an assessment of “health for all” based on those who can pay for it but the fraction of the population who are unable to do so.

First of all, they are more prone to diseases because of poor nutrition, as well as poor sanitary conditions. What makes the matter worse is the fact that when they fall ill, they are unable to take care of the medical expenses. For instance, for someone who died of malaria because he or she couldn’t afford the ACT medication may have a malaria as the diagnosis but the cause of death is definitely poverty. So then, it is true that poverty is really killing more people than malaria itself.

Our agricultural sector also plays an important role in health, especially in the prevention of certain diseases that come about as a result of malnutrition. Most of the diseases we face as a health challenge in this country is as a result of the lack of balanced and healthy diet, or what is usually referred to as poor nutrition.

Food scarcity is a major problem in this country. Meanwhile, we plant a lot of food crops in this country but essentially watch them go bad because we are unable to properly match our production to our consumption because we allow most of them to go bad before they get unto the market. And then comes the cost of food on the market as well.

Scarcity leads to a hike in the price of food on the market and that poses a new challenge to the poor. It has to do with the problem of affordability. As a result, many are left with no other choice than to survive through very simple means. For such a group of people, healthy food is more of a luxury than a necessity.

I would sum up mining, construction, production, and manufacturing into the economic activities we engage in. This tends to be a complex situation because some of these factors affect or impact our health directly, or they impact the environment which also impacts our health. Undoubtedly, these activities help to boost the economic situation of the country. Also, it helps to bring down the unending issues of unemployment and also provide us with some other benefits yet they put the health of our citizens at risks hence they must also be addressed if the nation indeed wants the best in terms of good health conditions for its citizens. First of all, these activities impact on the environment by affecting our sanitary conditions.

Some also affect our water bodies, poisoning it in the process. We cannot overlook the extent of air pollution that these sectors pose to our environment and above all the inhabitants of these areas who are prone to these pollutants. Many people that engage in these activities are exposed to certain unfavourable conditions which pose numerous health problems to them. One will side with me that even certain protective clothing that these workers need for their activities aren’t available or even if they are most of them aren’t in use since there are no strict measures that ensure its usage. I won’t be surprised that most of these workers might even not know how to use these protective gadgets since the level of education pertaining to the usage of these gadgets are often very low.

These workers end up reporting to various health facilities with numerous health problems. Aside the health dangers these workers face day in and out, their activities also tend to pose various health problems to the entire society.

From the various liquid and solid wastes that comes out from these factories which gracefully drain into our water bodies to the fumes that they release into the atmosphere which innocent souls tend to breathe in. all pose various health risks to the individuals.

Moving on from here, other activities such as improper siting of various buildings which tends to block drainage systems hence making our water bodies stagnant also have implications on our health. Improper disposal of waste including others also tend to affect the health of the citizens. one of the amazing things you will find out is that it seems the citizens in the country aren’t interested in their own health.

We dump refuse anywhere we deem appropriate knowing very well that these areas aren’t dumping sites. The government did a good job by implementing the clean-up exercise in various regional capitals but one may ask, how efficient are these implementations? We tend to wait for disasters such as flooding and disease outbreaks to strike us unexpectedly before we decide to do what is right and even with that we do them only for a matter of hours to days forgetting that life and properties lost cannot be brought back.

In conclusion, it can be clearly seen that the health of individuals can not be solely handled by various healthcare professionals alone since many factors contribute either directly or indirectly to it. Not withstanding this fact, the healthcare professionals contribute tremendously to ensure massive improvement in the health status of the citizens.

For our dear motherland to be able to ensure that the health of its citizens is improved so as to help them carry out their various activities, these contributing factors to health should be tackled as well. Health, one of the backbones of every society which makes it possible for people to be productive in order to ensure the growth and upkeep of the society and nation at large. For every nation to be able to grow economically, its citizens should be in good health so they can work effectively. One will agree with me that if the economic conditions such as the cost of living is lowered and the standard of living is improved it will go along way to also improve the health status of the citizens. If Ghanaians can get access to certain basic needs such as food, water etc which are of high quality at a lower cost it will help improve their health status.

Also, if Ghanaians have access to good working conditions and also have access to the various protective gadgets that they use at their various workplaces it will also go on to improve their health as well. Another angle from which the health of the citizens can be improved is by maintaining a pollutant free environment by making sure that various factories have proper ways to disposing off their waste products and also various homes also have proper ways of doing same.

Also, various agencies who have been tasked to ensure that these multisectoral factors which contributes to health are tackled well must be made to function well.

Arlen Specter once said that there is nothing more important than our good health which is our principal capital asset. So, I strongly believe that if the health of the people is their principal capital asset then the nation should regard it as such and treat is with all diligence and one of the ways in which this can be done is by looking at our various health issues as multi-sectorial and not just what it citizens present to various health facilities in order to gain treatment.

I would like to end by quoting from Joyce Meyer. She once said that “I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you”.

From this I would like to advise us all that we should all make it a point to treat health issues as a matter of necessity to all of us and not leave it in the hands of other people as if we have no business in it.


This post was edited by iGhanaian Editors for correctness, however, all views expressed herein remain that of the author, Richard Arthur-Norman and solely his. You can contact the author via kobbynorman4@gmail.com

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