Saturday, October 23, 2010


National Health Week is an Annual program organized by the Federation of Ghana Medical Students’ Association(FGMSA) This year, the theme chosen was Caring for the lungs; breath is life. This was chosen to highlight some of the major lung diseases and also to relate the relationship between breathing and life. A team of three (3) Students were dispatched to the Kassena-Nankana West District to embark on the one-week intensive health education, promotion and campaigning. The following are the names of the students from University of Ghana Medical School who were stationed in the district;
•Mr. John Godswill Gyasi Banin (2nd Clinical year) – Team leader
•Mr. Stephen Nuworkpor-Gapson (2nd Clinical year)
•Mr. Amos Paintsil Annan (1st Clinical year)
The team left Accra for Upper East on Saturday at 5:30pm. After a grueling 21-hour journey, we arrived in Paga, the district capital of Kassena-Nankana West. The team was warmly received by Mr. Anthony, the District Disease Control Officer since the District Director of Health Services (DDHS) was not in Paga at the time of our arrival. The team was lodged at KUB’s lodged.

Kassena-Nankana West District was carved out of the old Kassena-Nankana District in 2008 which had Navrongo as the district capital. The district being in its infantile stages is under-resourced in terms the capacity of healthcare delivery yet it can boast of many innovations and successes amidst the challenging circumstances. The District Health Management Team has plans of getting a permanent Office complex and also putting up a district hospital and an apartment for medical officers. The District Director of Health Services is Mrs. Vida A. Abaseka and the District Chief Executive is Hon. Thomas A. Dalu.
The local languages spoken here are Kasem and Nankan. Some also speak Hausa and even Twi. We had no problems with communication as other health workers were on hand to help with the translation moreover, a lot of our audience could also understand Twi.
Paga, the district capital is on the border between Ghana and Burkina Faso. Paga has over 2000 inhabitants and most of the inhabitants are farmers. The District boasts of several attractions;
•Paga has two main Crocodile ponds. This is a real attraction as visitors can sit on live crocodiles! The friendliness of these reptiles has its history dating back to the legend on the first chief of Paga called Naveh who was helped by a Crocodile to escape from his foes. The crocodiles are believed to be the soul of the people and as such, it is unacceptable to kill or harm crocodiles in Paga. The team did not miss out on such a rare opportunity!
•Paga also has the Pikworo Slave camp in Nania. This was used as a transit camp for the trading by Hausa, Mossi and Zambrama slave traders in the era of slave trade. The district is also blessed with beautiful landscaping and open fields for farming.
•Paga also boasts of Paga-Pio’s palace. The home of the traditional ruler of Paga. It dates back to the Seventeenth century and has preserved the culture and tradition of the people.

This was our first day on the ‘work’ and we were scheduled to meet the District Chief Executive of the district. Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet him or the District Coordinating Director. This was because the D.C.E, Mr. Thomas Adda Dalu was indisposed at the time of our visiting and the Director was I a meeting. We rescheduled the meeting for another date that would be convenient.
The team met with the Officials of the District Health Management Team in the absence of the Director who met us later in the morning in her office. We discussed our schedule for the week. On Monday the 20th of September, it rained almost all morning and this limited our movement. Nonetheless, we made the best out of the situation by visiting the Paga Health Center.
At the Paga Health Center, we were conducted round the facility and introduced to the staff there as well by the Medical Assistant at post there. After this, we gave a health talk on our theme. This was a very interactive session as we asked questions and also answered questions from our audience. Of interest, a patient came forward and shared his success story about quitting smoking. We all applauded him together with the rest of the audience. After the health talk, we stayed to help with the clinical work around. We retired to Kub’s lodge to rest for the next day’s work.

This day had been declared a public holiday in honor of Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday. However, relentless to fulfill our mission, we set off in the morning to the Martyrs of Uganda Health Center at Sirigu, a village in the district and also the Kassena Nanka East (KNE) Health Centre. This was about 20 minutes’ drive from the center of town. We divided ourselves into two groups to be stationed at both centers. KNE Health Center was however less busy because of the holiday and so we later joined and stayed at Martyrs of Uganda Health Center.
At the Health center, we gave a health talk on our theme and answered questions posed to us by our audience.
We had to help with the clinical work at the Health center since the place was over-crowded and the Medical Assistant at post had not yet arrived. This albeit challenging proved to be very fulfilling.
We returned to Paga for our lunch and rested from the day’s activities.

This day turned out quite unexpected yet very eventful and fulfilling. The medical Assistant at post at the Paga Health Center had to attend a meeting and the prescriber nurse was overwhelmed with the number of patients he had to attend to. The team assisted with consultation and clinical work at the health center.
This experience served as an eye-opener to the challenges faced by health workers working with limited resources in Paga and indeed in many parts of the country. The Ghana Health Service should do more to equip these areas and also the MOH should consider improving the infrastructural development in these areas. On our part as medical students, we realized the need to brace ourselves up and encourage our colleagues to accepting posting to some of these areas when we finally graduate as medical doctors.
From ‘work’ the team decided to have some fun today. We traveled on foot to Burkina Faso! We crossed the Ghana-Burkina Faso. In the evening, the team was privileged to meet and interact with the manager of our lodging place, Mr. George Kubuga. We are indeed grateful for your kind words.

On Thursday, the team paid a courtesy calls on the DCE (Hon. Thomas Adda Dalu) in his office. He officially welcome us to the district and we in turn updated him on our activities in the district so far and also outlined the rest of our schedule to him.
For the rest of the day, we were to be stationed at the Kassena-Nankana West Health Center at Chiana. We made the journey late because our vehicle arrived late from another important assignment. By the time we arrived in Chiana, the place was virtually deserted. We introduced ourselves to the staff there and had a brief interaction with them, telling them about our mission and also enquiring about their work. We handed over some educational materials and fliers to them and returned to Paga. Our mission was soon to be over in Kassena Nankana West District.

We left Kub’s lodged very late. We were scheduled to give health talks in one of the basic schools around and also at the mosque around noon time. Although the day started on a rather slow note, this turned out to be the most eventful day. Our first point of call was at the Tedam Junior High School. We went together with Mr. Anthony Kuseh, the District Disease Control Officer and had an interaction with the students and staff of the school for an hour. Here, we highlighted on the importance of hand washing with soap and water and also talked on our theme at length. We also asked students questions about the information we were giving them and in turn answered all their questions. Questions asked included questions about Tuberculosis, Lung cancer and even skin cancer. The headmaster of the school advised the team that some of us should consider coming back to the district after graduation because of the inequality in health worker distribution in the country.
Our next point of call was at the Central Mosque in Paga. Here too, we had a hearty discussion with worshippers after their Friday prayers. We communicated through an Interpreter. We spoke on Tuberculosis, Smoking and Lung cancer and also on H1N1 pandemic flu. Questions asked afterwards gave an indication the message had gone down well with them. There were however concerns about the side effects of the H1N1 vaccine. An issue about the vaccine causing death in some people was raised. We however tried our possible best to disabuse their minds on some of these. To this effect, we believe a little more education is needed since some people’s mind have been abused about the potential threat/ side effects of the vaccine.
A day with the crocodiles again was worth the trip. We went to the second pond at Zenga, still in Paga. It was here that we saw the biggest of these friendly creatures (At least, very friendly in Paga!)

From our interactions within the community especially at various health centers, we realized the public had some knowledge on what Tuberculosis (TB) is, what causes it, etc. Knowledge on other lung diseases such as Pneumonia, Asthma, etc was however not adequate. We reinforced the knowledge they already had and also explicated on the various diseases they had questions about.
A very encouraging observation made was the good health seeking behavior of the people of Kassena-Nankana. Reportage to the hospital was quite encouraging and it was very remarkable that almost all the patients seen at the health centers we visited were on the National Health Insurance Scheme. The NHIA, Public Health Service and the district officials as a whole deserves commendation on this note.
Obesity is never a problem to grapple with here in Kassena-Nankana West District. Most inhabitants own bicycles and most are also engaged in Farming or other activities that involved some form of physical exertion. The people generally seemed hard-working. It appears this could account for the single case of diabetes in only one obese patient we saw during our entire stay in the district.
Worthy of mentioning is the fact that the whole district lacks the services of a resident medical doctor. Looking at the service burden, it would be appropriate to have a resident medical doctor. This will lessen the number of referrals made to the Navrongo Hospital especially when most of the patients referred to the Navrongo Hospital defer because of various reasons chief among which is the distance and also the wherewithal to do so. This challenged us to consider and also encourage our colleagues to accept posting to areas like Kassena-Nankana West and the many other places in the country that are under-resourced in terms of healthcare personnel such as medical doctors.

To the organizers of National Health Week (FGMSA), more educational materials should be provided as these aids in disseminating information. Visual aids could be employed in the campaigning to make it more interactive and meaningful. Monies given for contingencies and Transportation were inadequate.
To the district health management team and district assembly, it appears the district is doing quite well in servicing the health needs of her citizenry. We were particularly impressed with efforts to make expansion works at the Paga Health Center and also the plan to build a district hospital. The Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service and all stakeholders in health should support this noble gesture for the good of the district.
Support for a program such as National Health Week is proof of the concern of district officials to educating the people of the district. We commend the district and recommend that future health promotion activities be encouraged since our interaction revealed a lot of people were still ignorant about some of the common health problems in our communities. The district itself could organize some of these programs and sensitize the people on some pertinent health problems. World Health Day celebrations such as World Heart Day, World Diabetes Day, World TB day, World No Smoking Day could be used to raise awareness on these health problems. The power of the mass media cannot be over-emphasized and the Public Health Service could employ this medium as a means of education by way of health programs on local radio stations in the local dialects.

Our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude goes to the almighty God for the guidance and protection throughout our journey here and also throughout our period of stay.
We are very grateful to Mrs. Vida Abaseka, District Director of Health Services for the warm reception and also for her able leadership in managing the affairs at Kasenna-Nankana West District. We will never forget the concern and the warm smile. Thank you and God richly bless you.
Also to the District Chief Executive, Mr. Thomas Adda Dalu. We are indebted to you for accepting to host us in your district for this program. You made us understand your doors were always open to us. Fortunately or unfortunately, we did not have to walk in through the door to your office again because we had a wonderful treatment by your people and had no cause to ever complain. Thank you very much for your commitment to your people.
To our very own father in Paga, Mr. Anthony Kuseh – Disease Control Officer, we say Daddy, God bless you richly. For your tolerance and cooperation, we will miss you a lot in Accra.
Also to Mr. Stephen Putiereh, driver at the District Health Authority and our chauffeur thanks for the time and the education about the places you took us around and the friendliness too. God reward your efforts.
Our appreciation also goes to Mr. George Kubuga, Augustine, Patience and the entire staff of KUB’s lodge. You made our stay one to remember for a long time to come. Thanks for the sumptuous meals too.
Our appreciation is never complete without mention of the numerous other people who helped in one way or the other in making our mission complete. And also o the entire inhabitants of Kassena-Nankana West, thank you very much for receiving us and may God kindly reward your efforts. God bless you all.

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