Health care is a Fundamental Human Right under Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which requires that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their health, well-being and medical care.
Article 34 of the 1992 Constitution, directs the President to account for Ghanaian’s right to health. It is on this human right that H.E John Dramani Mahama, in the National Democratic Congress’s (NDC’s) 2020 People’s Manifesto, will be offering free primary health care (Mahamacare) to complement the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Mahamacare is rooted in former President Mahama’s commitment to social justice and equity and will provide the average Ghanaian care for health needs throughout their lifespan, not just for a set of specific diseases. It will ensure that people receive comprehensive health care close to where they live through district hospitals, CHPS compounds as long as one has a form of citizens’ ID card.
Article 34 of the 1992 Constitution gives the Ghanaian the right to good health care and right to education. Ironically, the Constitution mentions good health before education and of course what use is education without good health. For low-income populations like we have in Ghana, Mahama’s free primary health care will be the game changer for public health. This combined with the transformation he intends to undertake in the Free SHS programme will improve the standard of living of the average Ghanaian.
Mahamacare has three pillars. The first is health promotion which is the process of teaching people to increase control over, and improve their overall health. Promotive care will involve community nurses who will educate and provide training for the community on what to do to be healthy, as well as district assembly officials who will ensure the maintenance of clean environment.
Health promotion under promotive care, is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond healthy lifestyles to well-being. Promotive care will be delegated to cities and municipalities and is typically the first contact between the community members and different health care providers like local community centre doctors, community health nurses, rural health midwives, traditional healers under the leadership of public health officials.
The second is preventive care, which involves various vaccinations, provision of good drinking water and sanitation practices. This preventive care is far more effective and less expensive than waiting to be sick before seeking medical care or cure.
For example, having yearly medical check-ups and prenatal care will be under Mahamacare as part of the preventive care. Physicians will provide the needed health education and care in health facilities either privately owned or government-operated like infirmaries (clinics), municipal, district hospitals and specialist out-patient departments in health facilities where ailments will be detected early and treated at no cost.
The third pillar of course is the curative care which is more specialized and focuses on helping patients who are struggling with more severe or complex health conditions requiring the support of a specialist in cases where diabetes, hypertension, asthma, in addition to eye and ear diseases, cardiologic conditions, and dermatologic problems should be treated.
Referrals to curative care facilities will fall under this category. Complicated cases and intensive care will be provided in medical centres in regional, municipal, and specialized hospitals. Over time curative care should be few if promotive care and preventive care are pursued diligently and practised. In addition, free postpartum care coupled with four months of maternity leave should be a game changer as well for the expectant working mother.
The hallmark of Mahamacare will be cleaner environment, healthier community, control and prevention of infectious diseases as well as community well-being leading to sustained life expectancy and optimised health outcome.
H.E John Mahama could not have summed it up better when he said, “A healthy nation makes a wealthy nation”.
By: Dr Issaka Mohammed