President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called for visionary leadership and extensive membership drive of the youth towards acceleration for Tuberculosis (TB) elimination, and ensuring lung health.
This, he said, was an important issue for discussion at the global congress on Lung Health, which is scheduled to take place in Guadalajara in Mexico in October this year.
He said it was important for Africa to start the deliberations now in order to be able to make strong contributions at the international front.
Africa, he said, had come a long way in fighting TB and accelerating implementation to end the epidemic and other related conditions.
President Akufo-Addo said the successes chalked should be the rallying call for all stakeholders, particularly the youth, who were passionate, to end the suffering of patients.
The President made the call in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the Minister of Health, at the official opening of the 20th Union Africa Region Conference on Lung Health currently underway in Accra.
He said Ghana’s efforts were yielding great dividend as attested to by the good treatment outcomes, adding that the country also had one of the lowest drug resistant TB levels which was about 14 per cent in Africa and indeed the world over.
However, the country was still affected by the universal problem of low TB case detection, and it was time to do things differently and to bridge the gap between research and implementation, and to share experiences leading to the charting of the way forward for the continent to achieve the desired impact.
The President said the four-day conference on the theme: “Accelerating implementation through partnerships to end TB, HIV/TB, Tobacco and other related NCDs”, was expected to address relevant contextual African challenges such as drug resistant TB, Childhood TB, Tobacco, TB/HIV, health systems co-financing, NGOs involvement in TB control among many other things.
The jointly hosted Ministry of Health and the Ghana Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (GSPT) event brought together over 800 delegates made up of scientists, researchers, academics, policy makers, health care providers, professionals and Civil Society groups, from North America, Asia Pacific, Europe and Africa.
They would share best practice, peer review and to draw lessons from existing work done on TB case detection in other countries, define and shape new strategic direction for the Region going forward, to eliminate the TB by 2035.
President Akuffo Addo indicated that Ghana had rapidly assimilated and updated its policies for accelerated TB Control, while government had secured funds and acquired 50 state-of-the-art digital-X-rays to complement existing ones in the health care institutions, and covered 53 per cent facilities with a new technology Gene Xperts diagnostic equipment, with advanced plans for a nationwide coverage to fight the epidemic.
The President commended the National TB Ambassador Nana Ehunabobrim Prah Agyensaim VI, the Omanhene of the Assin Owirenkyi Traditional area, for his passion to influence behavioral change, creating a positive impact in the lives of citizens to reduce stigma, ensure early detection and holistic treatment of cases in order to promote healthy communities for development.
He pledged the government’s commitment to working with technical partners including the Union Africa, WHO and the USAID to end TB in Ghana and in Africa.
He emphasised that TB must be controlled everywhere and anywhere, across borders, and that countries must work in sub regional networks such as West Africa Regional Framework for TB control.
Dr Anthony Nsiah Asare, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), giving statistics as obtained from the WHO Global TB Report of 2016, said Africa recorded 2.7 million new TB cases annually, 226,667 new cases every month, 7,452 new TB cases every day and 311 new TB cases die every hour.
He said a total of 750,000 people died of TB in Africa in 2015, which translate to 62,500 TB cases in a month, 2,055 died a day, and 86 TB cases died every hour.
He said having defined the huge continental problem, it was most appropriate that a conference such as this was organised to address the problems.
Dr Nsiah Asare said Ghana’s highest political commitment to end the TB had never been in doubt as once more demonstrated fast forward 50 years later by the support of the President Akuffo Addo, who was the current Chief Patron of the GSPT, to the unique Africa’s conference to end the epidemic.
He paid tribute to all the founding fathers of the Ghana Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases and other great men and women of Ghana, whose legacy, the Ministry of Health and National TB Control Programme had advanced to respectable heights.