In Ghana this was an unlikely scene in the past: a group of young doctors at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, looking at a computer-generated tomography image and discussing whether there are signs indicating that the patient suffers from a stroke. Their expertise is urgently needed in Ghana since heart attacks, strokes and deep vein thromboses are among the most common causes of death in adults in the country. Unfortunately, high blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases often go undetected and patients do not receive the care they need.
Ghana’s public health system has lacked standard operating procedures at the national level, and is missing guidelines, qualified experts and the necessary medical equipment to be able to respond to the growing number of patients. The Ghana Heart Initiative is working to change this, and aims to set national guidelines and standards. On behalf of Bayer AG, GIZ International Services has been cooperating closely with Ghana’s Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service and institutions such as Korle Bu Teaching Hospital since 2018. The partners in the country are working hard to ensure that the project is integrated into local structures and can later be continued independently. On the German side, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf together with their long-standing partner Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi has also joined the initiative.
Focusing on non-communicable diseases
Cardiovascular diseases are chronic, non-communicable diseases. They are a growing global problem and are placing considerable strain on health systems in developing countries and emerging economies. The Ghana Heart Initiative was launched in response to the urgent need for action on cardiovascular diseases. Due to this initiative, the Ghana health system is already noticing the first positive results.
One of its first major achievements was the joint development of national guidelines for treating cardiovascular diseases, which provide recommendations on how to identify and treat these. Training manuals for doctors and nursing staff have been produced, and a network of almost 30 mentors is supporting hospitals in the management of cardiovascular diseases.
More than 800 medical experts have been trained in preventing, diagnosing and managing these illnesses. Additionally, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf has helped to set up nine centres of expertise and to train more than 70 additional experts to diagnose and treat deep vein thromboses.
Apps and a call centre to provide information
Even in 2021, a year dominated by COVID-19, the Ghana Heart Initiative continued supporting the Ghanaian health institutions in tackling cardiovascular diseases. It supported the development of an app called AkomaCare to help familiarise healthcare professionals with the national guidelines. It has also improved data collection through the national District Health Information Management System (DHIMS).
In May 2021, Ghana’s first 24/7 support and call centre for cardiovascular diseases opened, enabling medical specialists to provide healthcare professionals with advice on diagnosis and treatment over the phone. In addition, more than 40 health facilities have received medical equipment worth a total of EUR 200,000, including defibrillators to treat abnormal heart rhythms, patient monitors, height and weight measuring stations, blood pressure measuring, and blood sugar monitoring devices. The Ghana Heart Initiative is now extending its activities beyond the Greater Accra Region to cover 10 additional regions around the country.
In the past 10 years, International Services has implemented around 500 projects worth EUR 1.7 billion in total, experiencing steady growth in its portfolio.
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