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23.11.2005 Health

Cost of malaria, an invaluable loss to the economy - Quashigah

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Accra, Nov. 23, GNA - Minister of Health Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd) on Wednesday said the cost of malaria drugs, bed nets, coils among other things put together were a big loss to the economy. The cost, he said, ran into hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of productive hours.

The minister, addressing the National Health Forum in Accra, said: "The total cost of treating malaria as shared by individuals, the household, employers and government is 1.6 trillion cedis, which is one-third of the Ministry of Health (MOH) budget. If we could save just 40 per cent of this money, it could be freed up for investment in productive enterprise."

The three-day forum on the theme, "Creating Wealth Through Health" has brought together the best brains in the country to dialogue on a new paradigm for health and also formulate a new health policy to replace the current one which expires in March 2006.

The forum would look at the burden of diseases, determinant of diseases, options of approaches for improving health and make recommendations for the way forward.

Major Quashigah said the four messages of the new paradigm were; - Creation of wealth through health - Health systems necessary but not sufficient for health improvement - Healthy lifestyles and environment produce health - A multi-sectoral action required to improve health.

These, he said, if achieved would lay the foundation for improving health, creating wealth and sustaining it into the future. The health minister said diseases came about because people continued to nurture unhygienic environments, were cruel to water bodies which had become the main source of water borne diseases, while nutrition, among other things, had been taken for granted. "It will be absurd to say people would not fall sick. But falling sick strangely is sometimes a choice we make as individuals and as a nation.

"Everything in life including the human body is regulated by natural laws of cause and effect. Our bodies have in-built mechanism for self-preservation, growth and development, involving a cycle of appropriation of food, assimilation and elimination of waste. A lifestyle that breaks this law is one that brings disease and ill health. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for its consequences." Staying healthy, he noted, was simply the discipline to maintain a hygienic and sanitary environment, consuming clean and safe water, engaging in regular exercise, creating time for rest and recreation among other things.

Major Quashigah said that a healthy, strong, intelligent and active human capital was more productive, created more wealth and contributed to an increase in Gross National Income. He tasked experts to come up with concrete measures to enhance collaborative planning for health and the development of the new health policy.