Chronic and non-communicable diseases, for example hypertension, stroke and diabetes, have become significant health problems in Ghana. Indeed, stroke disease is now in the top five causes of death in nationally (6% of all deaths; preceded by HIV/AIDS, malaria, lower respiratory infections and perinatal conditions). In the Greater Accra region, it is believed that stroke is now the second largest cause of death, preceded only by malaria. Stroke therefore causes significant burden to patients, their families, healthcare professionals, health services and wider society.
Having previously worked in Ghana and experienced such problems first hand, Dr Claire Spice (Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust) and Dr Hetty Asare (Ridge Hospital, Accra) planned the first stage of a co-operative developmental initiative between Ghanaian and UK health services. Over the past 2 years, a project group within the Wessex Region has been established, and in March 2009 a multidisciplinary team from this group made an initial visit to Ghana. During this visit the team collaborated with colleagues in Accra to review local services for people with stroke, assist with service planning and provide multidisciplinary education and training through both formal workshops and practical case-based problem solving. The various meetings and workshops resulted in an agreement by senior staff to establish West Africa’s first stroke unit.
It is hoped that ongoing collaboration, including further visits and reciprocal visits by Ghanaian professionals to the UK, will help to support future developments and lead to sustained change.
The Link is currently planning a second visit to Accra – it is hoped that this will take place in Autumn 2010. During the first year of this project (2008/09), activities focused on laying the foundations for establishing the Link, including an initial scoping visit to Accra. In the coming year, we hope to take this forward with a second follow up visit to Accra. The main aim of this second visit is to identify the priority needs for core stroke care development and to jointly agree a written action plan, including formalisation and agreement of responsibilities of each project partner.
It is also hoped that one member of the group (the therapist) will remain in Ghana for an extended period of time, during which she will work within the hospital and therapy departments to support the development of care in these priority areas.
We have been awarded an International Health Links Funding Scheme Small Grant (£3000) as well as a British Medical Association Humanitarian Fund Grant (£1800) which will support this visit, and are in the process of exploring other avenues for further funding.
In addition, we are building publicity and awareness of the Link both locally and nationally. This has included the sharing of our experiences so far at various forums, including the Wessex International Group and the UK Stroke Forum (poster presentation in December 2009).
Financial support for future visits.
Dr Claire Spice
Consultant Physician, Medicine for Older People
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust
Queen Alexandra Hospital
Tel: 02392 286 923
Dr Hetty Asare
Ridge Regional Hospital
Dr Albert Akpalu
Korle Bu Teaching Hospital