Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd), Minister for Health yesterday launched the National Health Policy to serve as the basis for the development of health sector priorities and planning.
The 55-page Policy document which aims at creating wealth through health, among other things places emphasis on improvements in personal hygiene, immunisation of mothers and children, the practice of safe sex and the prevention of injuries at both work places and on the road.
The National Health Policy also argues that a healthy population can only be achieved if there are improvements in environmental hygiene and sanitation, proper housing and town planning, provision of safe water, safe food and nutrition and encouragement of regular physical exercise.
Addressing a summit in Accra organised by the Ministry of Health and its partners yesterday, Major Quashigah called for closer collaboration with all stakeholders in ensuring the achievement of set goals.
He said the sector will enter into dialogue with the private sector in 2009 as to whether private capital can be applied to provide staff accommodation and other infrastructure to ensure quality health delivery in the country.
Major Quashigah said the National Health Policy will provide a new direction in the development of health in the country, while providing a framework for doing things differently.
The five-day summit on the theme, ' Change for better results, Improving Maternal and Neo-natal Health', will afford health partners the opportunity to discuss the programmes of the sector for the next year.
The Health Minister commended its partners for their commitment which have contributed to a large extent, a healthy, productive and inclusive dialogue in the health sector.
'The Ministry, Agencies, and Department Partners are now closer on issues of mutual accountability and ownership of programmes..What we should avoid is that kind of partnership that sees the Ministry of Health and its agencies on one side and development partners on the other' he said.
Major Quashigah emphasised on change, to ensure positive results, saying such change must come from individuals and collective responses to issues and the way support for programmes are mobilised and disbursed.
He however said in spite of the flourishing partnership there remained a few challenges which must be worked at, adding that no matter the performance of other sources of funds donor contribution in whatever form, will remain critical to the health sector and will determine to a large extent, the level of the overall year-on-year all performance.
'Our quest to create wealth through health requires that we find innovative ways of doing things. We cannot continue to do business as usual and therefore as partners we must prepare to take some amount of risk in exploring new ways of securing the health of this nation', he said.
The Health Minister expressed belief that the transitional year will not distort the programmes and policies of the sector, saying there are robust medium term programmes with clearly defined priorities and targets, some of which are defined within the framework of the global initiatives and thus continuity is to a large extent assured.
He said the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy is in its last implementation period and called for increased efforts to meet agreed targets while at the same time putting in place structures and mechanisms that will allow the consolidation and sustenance of gains made so far.
He said there are a few challenges confronting the health sector, including a setback to the polio free status and increased the rate of maternal motility.
Major Quashigah also attributed current polio outbreaks to the poor sanitation that children are exposed to and said they need between ten to fifteen doses to be fully immunised against polio.
'Currently this cannot be done through the routine system which targets only children under one and provides only four doses. This argument underscores the need for us to intensify the mass campaigns if we stand any chance of fully protecting our population.' he said.
He said change for better results and improving maternal and Neo-natal health will be derived from the need to ensure safe reproduction and minimise avoidable deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.
The Minister mentioned the Free Delivery Service introduced by the government in July this year as a major strategy to mitigate the high maternal and infant mortality rates, saying it leads to a massive uptake of maternity services of the health facilities in the country.
'On the average, all the health facilities visited four months after the inception of the policy are reporting over 300 percent increase in client numbers.
He said the need to increase and upgrade infrastructure, increased staff, incentives for deprives areas and logistics are critical to the realisation of the gains of the programme.
He said it requires that in 2009, things are done differently to ensure better results and accelerate the attainment of targets, especially those related to policies on reducing maternal and neo-natal deaths.
Major Quashigah said in this direction the need to focus on addressing specific health system bottlenecks including improving budget execution, data collection systems and linking procurement plans and cycles to the budget is key to ensuring an efficient and effective sector.
'We have also put some emphasis on specific changes in human resource management necessary for improved productivity in the health sector and all these would take steps to consolidate the gains made under the regenerative health and nutrition programme,' he said.
He expressed the hope that the New Health Policy will lead to an accelerated development of the human capital in Ghana.
Mr Donald Teitelbaum, Ambassador of the United States of America, representing the Health Partners, called for the need to review and revive family planning programmes and practices.
He said quality family planning practices and services are also key to ensuring a reduction in maternal mortality rates.
He also mentioned the malaria intervention programme, which include the distribution of Insecticide Treated Bed Nets to both pregnant and lactating mothers, saying these have contributed drastically to a reduction in malaria cases among the group.
Mr Teitelbaum, said the summit will address certain challenges that have confronted the health sector in the year and proposed changes to ensure quality health care delivery in the country.
He commended government on the implementation of the Free Delivery Service programme, saying it will go a long way to complement other programmes aimed at ensuring a reduction in maternal and neo-natal mortality and strengthen the health care delivery system in the country.