Cultural Comparison, Part 3

33 Commentsby   |  07.22.11  |  Accra, Ghana

My last installation of cultural comparison between Ghana and the United States will be over the healthcare systems. However, after interviewing Corrinne, the Village of Hope’s nurse, it was apparent that the healthcare systems have very little in common. Thus, for this last project, I will give a brief overview of the Ghanaian system, discuss some issues within the system, and propose a solution for improvement.

Ghanaian healthcare is a national public system. Citizens are not required to have health insurance, but it is strongly encouraged. Overall the system is not incredibly efficient: the system for healthcare is backed up, and sometimes it takes over a year to receive an insurance card, at which point the card becomes ineffective. Many villagers are reluctant to pay for an unreliable insurance card, especially when other basic needs, like food, are not being met. Thus, most Ghanaians receive medical care through a local clinic which they pay for out of pocket or they consult the village doctor. Hospitals are located in major cities, especially in the greater Accra region, though access to medical assistance is fairly limited and unreliable for the majority of the agrarian sectors of Ghana.

The Village of Hope’s nurse is a woman named Corrinne, who formerly lived in Michigan. A year ago the Lord told her to go to Ghana, so she sold all she had and moved to work in the Village of Hope’s clinic. The transition for her has been difficult, but she loves every minute of it. Having listened to her stories and inside information, it is clear that the first major issue for Ghanaian healthcare is its lack of resources. When she arrived, basic medical supplies were lacking, which is not uncommon for clinics across the country. On her first visit to the clinic, the nurses were using old IV tubing as a tourniquet because of lack of supplies. With such a lack of basic resources, it is incredibly difficult to meet even the most basic of medical needs. Secondly, the distribution of the resources that are actually available is very poor. Insurance cards are received unreliably and in an untimely fashion. Patients often cannot even afford transportation to go to the clinic, and so medication is simply not available for them because they cannot physically get there. Also, the availability of clinics is not evenly distributed, being concentrated in larger cities and lacking in small villages and agrarian societies.

Though the first two main issues are concerned with resources, the last main issue with the healthcare system is a lack of education on health issues. Concerning medical personnel, many nurses and doctors lack proper training and management skills to efficiently run a clinic. Concerning the general population, there is still a persistent belief in superstitions and herbal medicines. Many witch doctors tell the local people that they will die if they go receive medical help from a clinic. Moreover, certain diseases and health issues, like STD’s and tuberculosis, are considered taboo, and so the afflicted persons will refuse to receive medical help. Overall, the attitude towards health is not focused on prevention, but rather on reactive solutions. Because of this, clinics are forced to play a game of “catch up” by having to focus on simple issues that could have been prevented with proper knowledge.

Considering the overarching challenges for the Ghanaian healthcare system, the solution that would lead to the greatest amount of national medical improvement would be to focus on increasing the caliber of education available to the country. By focusing on and improving the quality of the educational system, many preventive health issues would be eliminated, and superstitions would not hold back persons who truly needed medical assistance. Additionally, a better educational system would produce medical personnel equipped to properly handle health clinics. Thus, higher educational standards would lead to higher health standards. However, it is also still important to consider where the country is at in its history. With Ghana as a country being little more than half a century old and having an even newer constitution, Ghana is considerably better off than many of its neighboring countries. One of the issues in comparing Ghana and the United States is that America has a considerable advantage simply because it has had more time to shape and perfect its society and government. Keeping in mind the timeline for Ghana as a country, I have high hopes for its future. Though its healthcare and education systems are not as polished as those in a country like the United States, I believe they are on their way to considerable improvement. The government is pressing for education among the people, and health campaigns and advertisements to the population are abundant. If Ghana continues to grow and mature with its new constitution, it is my hope that, step by step, as a country, the people will see improved standards with education, leading to an improved healthcare system.


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