According to World Health Organisation, many factors combine together to affect the health of individuals and communities. Whether people are healthy or not, is determined by their circumstances and environment. However, to a large extent, factors such as where we live, the state of our environment, genetics, our income and education level, and our relationships with friends and family all have considerable impacts on health, whereas the more commonly considered factors such as access and use of health care services often have less of an impact.
The WHO includes the following as the determinants of health:
1. the social and economic environment,
2. the physical environment, and
3. the person's individual characteristics and behaviours.
The above highlights the context of which people's lives are determined. Therefore blaming individuals for having poor health or crediting them for good health is inappropriate. Individuals are unlikely to be able to directly control many of the determinants of health.
In Ghana and many African countries National Health Service seems to be aware of the determinants of health however fail to systematically address these area and pay lip services in addressing such issues.
These determinantsor things that make people healthy or notinclude the above factors, and many others:
1. Income and social status - higher income and social status are linked to better health. The greater the gap between the richest and poorest people, the greater the differences in health.
2. Education - low education levels are linked with poor health, more stress and lower self-confidence.
3. Physical environment - safe water and clean air, healthy workplaces, safe houses, communities and roads all contribute to good health. Employment and working conditions - people in employment are healthier, particularly those who have more control over their working conditions
4. Social support networks - greater support from families, friends and communities is linked to better health. Culture - customs and traditions, and the beliefs of the family and community all affect health.
5. Genetics - inheritance plays a part in determining lifespan, healthiness and the likelihood of developing certain illnesses. Personal behaviour and coping skills - balanced eating, keeping active, smoking, drinking, and how we deal with life's stresses and challenges all affect health.
6. Health services - access and use of services that prevent and treat disease influences health
7. Gender - Men and women suffer from different types of diseases at different ages.
Having discussed elements in which WHO operates it looks as if our former President the late President Kwame Nkrumah himself coming from a very poor economic background set his vision on Ghana educational system. Nevertheless, he used opportunities available to him to make a difference for everyone. In terms of coming from a humble beginning to being a President in his time. What a remarkable achievement thus making Ghana very proud.
In Ghana there are area with not clear guidelines for example, the needs of looked after children (by this I am referring to children being looked after by distant relations due to economic circumstances and guardians). Whose responsibility is it to speak out for this groups of children among us? Is there a agency or organisation responsible?
Would it be a good idea to perhaps benchmark the best practice used in British schools to widen our approach in improving our educational system?
This is why I have chosen to write about bringing in unannounced form of Ofsted school inspection to all our primary schools. It addresses the quality standards in all schools. This is holding head teachers to account.
How could we as a nation have an absolute confidence in the integrity of our educational system when some children in the rural areas are educated under the tree in the 21st century?
Ghana must also introduce this 'No Nonsense approach' to the regulation of schools.
It comprises of unannounced school inspection given schools no room for hiding their failing facts. This no- notice inspections especially where there were concerns re behaviour and teaching standards was reported to provide parents and others a true picture of school's performance. Parents whose only form of education is under the tree can challenge the Government where their child's health and safety is not considered as a priority in the educational budget.
Whistle blowers should be encouraged to exposed failing schools and malpractices. Child protection policies should be integral in every school and pupils and their parents should be encouraged to report case to the police for further investigations.
Children should be encouraged to challenge their teachers in primary school s and be encouraged to be creative in their thinking. This could be norm throughout schools. There are other areas worth exploring in primary schools for example Drama, pottery making, gardening and basic art and craft. These are areas school I believe are necessary for the inspectors to look out for to see where children are vocal, confident and believe in themselves.
Thus helping to build not only the confidence in our children but also boost their self esteem and self worth. This all what the British focus on meeting all the five outcomes of every child matters. (This has been the title of three British government papers, leading to the Children Act 2004. Every Child Matters covers children and young adults up to the age of 19, or 24 for those with disabilites.
Its main aims are for every child, whatever their background or circumstances, to have the support they need to:
1. Be healthy
2. Stay safe
3. Enjoy and achieve
4. Make a positive contribution
5. Achieve economic well-being
I do hope the newly appointed Minister of Education would read these suggestions if only she has the interest of every child in Ghana close to his heart.
Interestingly, this 'no-notice inspections' was introduced last year in all schools in the UK. This came as a shock to most teachers and caused some hiccups in most schools.
The reform is the first to be introduced by Sir Michael Wilshaw, a former head teacher recruited by the Education Secretary in the U.K to bring a 'no-nonsense approach' to the regulation of schools.
Therefore the general public have 'absolute confidence in the integrity' of the system, the new head of the U.K reported. Could Ghana also report on this?
It comes amid allegations that some schools in the U.K may have sought to circumvent existing inspections by sending home weak teachers or unruly pupils when regulators are due. Currently, only schools that have become a 'cause for concern' face unannounced inspections. This is also a concern in our schools too.
This new approach in the U.K is considered to an opportunity to inspectors to do what's really important - going in and inspecting quality, particularly teaching.
Would such an apporach be welcomed in Ghana educational system?
We have a choice and chnace to make a difference in some of our failing schools..
Ghana's educational system must get to grips with the Every Child Matter document and emualte best practices as we currently live in a global world.