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10.03.2006 Health

Who Benefits: Early Child Health Surveillance

By Bolus, Mercy
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Each child is a unique individual who differs emotionally, psychologically, and physically from we the adults.

The growth and development forms the basis of how parents and the community bond with that child.

Ghana's traditional way of outdooring of a child would be the envy in the Western developed society because not only does it bring both families together but also a time to catch up with family concerns. Ghanaians not only have the outdooring but also the christening if the family are Christians. Other religions also have their own way of welcoming the birth in a unique way.

A grand welcoming to the world is that all we offer our children?

The child's developmental milestones of children are not monitored in Ghana. If problems were not recognisable at birth then it would be up to the parents, more so the mother, to follow up with the medical services. Given what I have highlighted about dilemmas mothers face living on the breadline, how could they possibly follow up an extra financial drain to their already limited family resources? How could mothers cope with the anxiety special needs children bring on a family? Surely, these are issues the Public Health Directorate should have already addressed. Without intervention at an early stage, more of our children with difficulties will end on our street begging to make ends meet. It becomes more relevant as I proceed with this article where Ghana's problems lie in this area, and who is failing the public? Paying lip service to an issue is just not good enough. It is the strategy and the tactics that really counts and the Department of Health needs more action to earn respect on this subject, I'm afraid.

Whose responsibility would this be? Public Health Practitioner in Ghana Mothers go to health centres to weigh their babies and discuss developmental issues but does our system have a standard health check for children and their families. Such an intervention would stimulate awareness of early signs of special needs, such as learning disabilities, autism, and children with hearing impairment. Most of our children are really missed out with our current limited system of childcare.

Comprehensive health checks at certain milestones for example 8 months, 15 months, and 3and half years to tie in with their immunisations would help to identify special needs children. Does Ghana have a statementing procedure to ensure that any special needs child get all the necessary help they might need? How could such children reach their full potential in life, which is even crucial in Ghana and any other African country in the world, if parents are not aware of the facilities available?

I am therefore, appealing to the Public Health Directorate in Ghana that if they have not already started this off we should in the near future. If not, this would be seen by UNICEF, WHO and other relevant organisations that we are failing the vulnerable public. There may be some services available but how are children referred?

Special needs demands require early recognition, diagnosis and intervention. Ongoing support for the family affected is also needed.

Are there any supports groups to help mothers going through special needs issues? Or are their predicaments left to the individual alone to face, the church or other religions.

All children need a health check of their milestones developments. Public health practitioners or public health nurses should be trained to do with partnership with community doctors or health practitioners.

Isn't this a healthy start for a nation?

How well does our system prepare young parents to the challenge of being a parent?

Does our system personalised care driven by better access, more funding, following the patient such as out reach services preaching the message of public health on the streets and open markets etc?

Does our community care services have the capability and capacity to understand the process for an effective change in terms of Ghana's own objectives for public health issues?

Do public health nurses have postnatal groups for a parents, which is an essential aspect to creating an awareness for mothers and more so preventing of prevent ill health?

If Public Health Directorate in Ghana were functional we would not have others informing the general public to clean up once a year on Saturday as our cities are so dirty and filthy.

All health departments and environmental departments as well as the business sector need to work as an integrated service to help in improving the whole out look of child health care. There is the need to spread the best practice- do and share bases. This would enhance a universal comprehensive way of offering an adequate child health care regardless the financial status of their citizens.

To be a smart Government in order to have a healthy nation, which is the backbone for, country's economic development is to nip problems in the bud before they become full-blown issues. The solution? Ghanaians would acknowledge that there in not money to do everything, but then doing the developmental checks is an expensive exercise.

All that is needed is to incorporate checks into the work of Public health nurses. To do developmental checks on children at their key stages of life would not be a great expense.

It would then be possible to encourage charitable organisations to chip with the resources to support parents and help meet the children's needs. The Government would be the statutory body to do the initial assessment and then refer on to the Non Government Organisations to carry out the interventions. Not every child may get the intervention they need but they would get a chance to reach their full potential in life. In future, as the economy of the country improves, Ghana State services can slowly expand to meet the full needs of its children.

Hope this is not a big thing to ask the Department of Health!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.