Report on the Health Communication Policy Booklet by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), in collaboration with the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC)
The Launch of the Health Communication Policy Booklet, taking place on 5 October 2016 in Accra, Ghana, was an unprecedented event in the history of science advocacy in Africa. I was particularly proud of the efforts of the organisers to reach out to the academia, government, parliament, policy-makers, members of the public and press attending. The meeting aimed to share experiences on how to address the challenges posed by inequities of double burden of communicable diseases (CD) and non-communicable diseases (NCD) and to mobilise commitment to the urgent implementation of feasible actions on health determinants in all countries, with the goals of improving health, reducing health inequities and promoting development.
The official opening speeches of the meeting were made by Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and Professor Volker ter Meulen, Past President of the Leopodina. Professor Sawyerr welcomed participants to the programme and recognised the presence of Hon. Richard W. Anane, MP; Ranking Member, Ghana’s Parliamentary Select Committee on Health. He referred to the considerable Health Policy Booklet as a product of a rewarding collaboration between GAAS and Leopodina with pro-active decision that will benefit Africa to deal with the dual-burden of CD and NCD. Professor Volker ter Meulen joined the meeting virtually and welcome the participants to the meeting and spoke of Leopodina’s true belief in the changing dynamics of public health that is not regional but global. He referred to the need for global efforts to better the diseases and improve the state of health worldwide. He also mentioned the objective of NASAC towards providing advice to government on scientific aspects on pertinent issue to Africa’s development.
The opening speeches were followed by the review of the booklet by Professor Isabella A. Quakyi, Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. She emphasised the importance of understanding how to find new ways of working and having integrated, multi-sectoral approaches to meet the challenges of health and development. Her speech was followed by the electronic launch of the Booklet by the ranking member of Parliament, Hon. Richard W. Anane. The parliamentary member commended the initiative and pledge the support of the Health Committee of Ghana’s Parliament through policy initiative and interventions. The launch was followed by a panel discussion of four experts that included Dr Dwomoa Adu (Fellow of GAAS), Dr Patrick K. Arthur (member of Ghana Young Academy and member of GYA) and Dr Efua Commeh (Programme Officer, Non-Communicable Diseases Programme, Ghana Health Service) as well as myself, Dr Femi Morakinyo (member of the Nigerian Young Academy and representative of the GYA). Dr Efua spoke about the Ghanaian context and highlighted the changing disease burden with data from Ghana’s Health Service.
As a panellist, I reflected on the issue of hidden hunger as an unrecognised health problem leading to stunting, cognitive deficit and high mortality among African children. I argued for a need to actively engage the population with locally-owned nutritional solutions, secure the buy-in of the society and promote the consumption of culturally appropriate local foods that are rich in micronutrients to tackle the escalating problem of micro-nutrient malnutrition. I strongly believe that schools can provide a natural setting for effective interventions for older ages and to promote adequate nutrition to future mothers. The importance of the political support and leadership was also stressed with a classical example of the 2014 Ebola case in Nigeria. Other panelists also emphasised the need to implement the policy direction in the Booklet to address with the potential double-burden of CD and NCD diseases in Africa.
Lastly, the launch of the Booklet was a huge success with remarkable participation from a diverse set of audience, the venue of the event was good with sufficient lighting and sound. I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the GYA for nominating me to represent the Academy at the epoch-making event and funding by the organisers. I would also like to thank the GAAS, Leopodina and NASAC for their commitment and hard work in making the launching a success.
Report by: Dr Femi Morakinyo (GYA/NYA representative; Nigerian Young Academy)
GYA member and nutrition expert Dr Femi Morakinyo on “Changing Disease Patterns in Africa” during the Health Booklet Launch on 5 October 2016 can be seen in a YouTube presentation (minutes 52:13-1:05:14).