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Opinion | Jan 10, 2018

The Year 2018: Controversies, Fiascoes, Skepticism And Frustrations Abound.

The talk of a lousy 2017 Christmas celebration won’t go away any time soon—thanks in part to our lousy policy makers, who can’t wait to propose get -rich- quick schemes to milk us to death. Nevertheless, the year 2018 is not going to be anything to write home about, given the controversies and skepticisms in its DNA. The year is bouncing from issue to issue like a pinball, with no end in sight.

The 2018 is just two weeks old folks, but all of these things have happened so far this year.The fallout from this year’s ‘revelations’ has over- shadowed any key national agenda.

1. DVLA compulsory First Aid kit fiasco. Yes, they wanted to make up for the compulsory towing fees rip –off which was brought down by the citizenry.

2. Televasion levy from the GBC TV executives, supposedly without the government’s consent. Hell no!

3. $ 100,000 cash-for seat saga in parliament—the jury is still out on that one but don’t count on any break- through yet.

4. A missing autopsy report on a murdered MP—oops! Justice denied even to the dead—justice denied to a deceased member of Parliament of Ghana. Who else is secured?

5. Ghana Immigration service recruitment fiasco. How do we explain the rationale behind selling of 84,637 e- vouchers for 500 vacancies? Aye ka! Now we wonder why these recruits shouldn’t be corrupt once they get the job.

6. The national health Insurance Administration’s (NHIA) sugar taxation mumbo-jumbo to fund the collapsing NHIA. I really feel compelled to respond to this particular issue because healthcare delivery issues cut across every issue in Ghana.

Personally, I don’t know where to start .However, for the sake of time and space; I’m going to concentrate so far on the NHIA’s sugar and cigarette taxation because a lot is missing in the healthcare delivery equation.

Dr Annor was right about taxing fat and chemically –saturated food we wantonly consume, but he is chasing the small fish in the ocean instead of the big ones. If he really wants to safe the NHIA there are measures he can implement. How can we glorify the alcoholic consumption on our airwaves and in the media and turn around to tax the consumption of sugar? What about genetically modified (GM) food we’re religiously embracing as if there is no tomorrow?

Yes, the Ghanaian consumer should be made to pay a little penalty (through taxation) for consuming products that are unhealthy like tobacco, pizza, KFC chicken or alcohol. Personal responsibility is vital when it comes to healthcare delivery issue because the consequences of individual’s choices are borne in part by the whole society through the NHIA.

First our environment is intricately linked to our health— does the malaria epidemic in the country ring a bell?

I’m not a medical doctor, but it’s my conviction that, solving basic human problems—like domestic waste and poor sanitation, etc—are just as important as finding medical solutions to our ailments or curing a disease. We cannot expect to have a good cost-effective health care delivery system in this nation without a major development and deployment of ways to solve basic human problems in our communities and towns.

Besides the unhealthy foods we consume every day, and poor sanitation, our food processing methods, storage and distribution outlets need a critical revamp—should we tax them also?

Have you watched how vegetable growers ,especially those in the urban areas such as Accra sprinkle filthy water on their plants just before harvesting for market vendors to sell to consumers?

Take a trip to the slaughter houses (where burning tires are used to process the meat), food parlors and chop bars across the land and you will understand where I’m coming from.

In addition, some of our saturated herbal medicines are killing us softly— because people are wantonly and naively consuming these unhygienic and low standardized drugs that have little or instructions for the consumers.

Unfortunately, in our modern society which is increasingly driven by measures of ‘financial success’ by any means necessary, the pressure to succeed is very intense. This has created a high level of unprecedented stress and related chronic health conditions.

What about the conditions of our pot-holes infected and accident prone roads? Aren’t they all health hazards? What are we doing about them? Or that is not important to the healthcare equation?

As if all that is not enough. We’re now adding insult to injury by topping it off with a wholesale consumption of foreign cultures and lifestyles all in the name of ’freedom’ and ‘civilization’. The sad part of it is that even well-funded and most efficient healthcare system could not withstand a rising tide of chronic diseases or the tsunami fallout from an imported lifestyle some of our young population are vigorously embracing in the name of almighty dollar.

However, to control the run-away cost of the NHIA we need to control people’s behaviors. Behavioral Economists have been telling us for years that people aren’t always rational when it comes to making choices. Sometimes it takes a little extra push and cash payment or taxation to provide the nudge to encourage or discourage people to rearrange their lifestyles or do what they should be doing for themselves for the sake of self-preservation and longevity.

Speaking of incentives, the NHIA and businesses and multi-national food processing companies in Ghana should consider offering perks and other incentives to Ghanaians to stay healthy. Employers using incentives as a way to get employees into the gym, wellness programs, loss weight, stop-smoking, or other health enhancing programs are steps in the right direction, if we really want to save money and sustain the NHIA.

In fact, health enhancing incentives like annual premium reduction for subscribers who loss weight or stop smoking and attend healthy awareness classes should be part of the NHIA’s equation. Our churches and mosques should start preaching health enhancing measures vigorously to the congregations across the land.

The NHIA debate right now is all about giving more Ghanaians an affordable access to doctors, hospitals and medicine. Yet, the vast majority of healthcare decisions are really made by individuals, instead of medical professionals; whether choices are about diet and exercise or ways of managing chronic conditions like diabetics, obesity or heart disease.

Patients’ failure to follow even a basic regiment of prescription drug can leave them with serious medical complication and big medical cost. The NHIA loses money when people don’t take their medications for chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension and later on show up at the hospitals’ emergency rooms, which costs more to treat them.

For an effective healthcare delivery system, we need the two experts in the field: The doctor (who specializes in human biology and psychology and chemistry and the patient (who is also expert in feelings). Without bringing these two experts together in harmony, no good cost-effective health care insurance could be accomplished.

It has been hell for 2018 so far and I don’t think this year is going to be that great, given all the controversies and fiascoes that are emerging, week after week. This year is definitely going to give the journalists and talking heads on our airwaves a lot to talk about. And comedians are going to have a field day and laugh all the way to the bank, sweat –free.

How many more controversies and fiascoes are going to pop up here and there in other departments before the year gets old? Only God knows!

Stay Tuned and have a Happy New Year!( Yeah right!).

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (voice of reason)
*The author is a social commentator and founder of an empowerment foundation for Disadvantaged youth of Asuom,E/R.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi, © 2018

This author has authored 189 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: KwakuAduGyamfi

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