Ghanaian views of short-term medical missions: The pros, the cons, and the possibilities for improvement

Various governments in Ghana have tried to improve healthcare in the country. Despite these efforts, meeting health care needs is a growing concern to government and their citizens. Short term medical missions from other countries are one of the responses to meet the challenges of healthcare delivery in Ghana. This research aimed to understand Ghanaian perceptions of short-term missions from the narratives of host country staff involved. The study from which this paper is developed used a qualitative design, which combined a case study approach and political economy analysis involving in-depth interviews with 28 participants.

Findings show short term medical mission programs in Ghana were largely undertaken in rural communities to address shortfalls in healthcare provision to these areas. The programs were often delivered free and were highly appreciated by communities and host institutions. While the contributions of STMM to health service provision have been noted, there were challenges associated with how they operated. The study found concerns over language and how volunteers effectively interacted with communities. Other identified challenges were the extent to which volunteers undermined local expertise, using fraudulent qualifications by some volunteers, and poor skills and lack of experience leading to wrong diagnoses sometimes. The study found a lack of awareness of rules requiring the registration of practitioners with national professional regulatory bodies, suggesting non enforcement of volunteers’ need for local certification.

Short Term Medical Missions appear to contribute to addressing some of the critical gaps in healthcare delivery. However, there is an urgent need to address the challenges of ineffective utilisation and lack of oversight of these programs to maximise their benefits

Incidence patterns, care continuum and impact of treatment on survival among women with breast cancer in Ghana and the United States

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. Of the five breast cancer subtypes, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype. Black women in the US and Ghana are more likely to be diagnosed with TNBC, at young ages and advanced stages. Combining information from Ghana and the US, this project identified the breast cancer care continuum in Ghana, examined the breast cancer incidence patterns in Ghana and the US and assessed the optimal surgical treatment for TNBC. In the first manuscript, we examined how women in Ghana navigate the healthcare system and factors that influence their decisions and ability to seek and access breast cancer care. We interviewed thirty-one women diagnosed with breast cancer in Kumasi, Ghana. Based on the findings from the interviews, we presented a framework showing specific steps in the pathways and how women transition from one step to another. In the second manuscript, we assessed factors explaining the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among Ghanaian women compared to women in the US. To achieve these aims we analyzed breast cancer data from the Kumasi Cancer Registry, the only population-based cancer registry in Ghana, and compared it to the US Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data. Population age structure, screening and cohort effects explain the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among women in Ghana In the third manuscript, we examined whether the poor prognosis of TNBC warrants a more aggressive surgical approach and whether there is value in expanded use of radiation therapy among women with TNBC who receive mastectomy. We found that breast conserving surgery followed by radiotherapy is an effective treatment for women with early-stage TNBC. Findings from this dissertation are timely due to the rapidly rising burden of breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and persistent disparities in the US.

Acute kidney injury among medical and surgical in-patients in the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, Cape Coast, Ghana: a prospective cross-sectional study

Background: Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a syndrome associated with high morbidity, mortality and high hospital costs. Despite its adverse clinical and economic effects, only a few studies have reported reliable estimates on the incidence of AKI in sub-Sahara Africa. We assessed the incidence and associated factors of AKI among medical and surgical patients admitted to a tertiary hospital in Ghana.

Methods: A prospective cross-sectional study was conducted among one hundred and forty-five (145) consecutive patients admitted to the medical and the surgical wards at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH), Cape Coast, Ghana from April 2017 to April 2018. Socio-demographic and clinical information were collected using structured questionnaires. AKI was diagnosed and staged with the KDIGO guideline, using admission serum creatinine as baseline kidney function.

Results: The mean age of the study participants was 46.6±17.7 years, whilst the male:female ratio was 68:77. The overall incidence of AKI among the participants was 15.9% (95% CI: 10.33 – 22.84%). Stage 1 AKI occurred in 56.5% of the participants, whilst stages 2 and 3 AKI respectively occurred among 4.1% and 2.8% of respondents. About 20% of the participants in the medical ward developed AKI (n= 15) whilst 12% of those in surgical ward developed AKI (n= 8). Among the participants admitted to the medical ward, 60.0%, 26.7% and 13.3% had stages 1, 2 and 3 AKI respectively. Whilst 50.0%, 25.0% and 25.0% respectively developed stages 1, 2 and 3 AKI in the surgical ward. Medical patients with AKI had hyper-tension (40%), followed by liver disease (33.3%); 37.5% of surgical inpatients had gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.

Conclusion: The incidence of AKI is high among medical and surgical patients in-patients in the CCTH, Ghana, with hypertension and liver disease as major comorbidities.

Community engagement and involvement in Ghana: conversations with community stakeholders to inform surgical research

Background: Involving patients and communities with health research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) contributes to increasing the likelihood that research is relevant in local context and caters to the needs of the population, including vulnerable and marginalised groups. When done right, it can also support empowerment of wider communities in taking ownership of their own health, lead to increased access and uptake of health services and generally improve the wellbeing of individuals. However, the evidence base of how to undertake successful community engagement and involvement (CEI) activities in LMICs is sparse. This paper aims to add to the available literature and describes how the Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery’s (GSU) team in Ghana worked collaboratively with the Unit’s team in the UK and a UK-based Public Advisory Group to involve community stakeholders in rural Ghana with surgical research. The aim was to explore ways of reaching out to patients and community leaders in rural Ghana to have conversations that inform the relevance, acceptability, and feasibility of a clinical trial, called TIGER.
Methods: As this kind of larger scale involvement of community stakeholders with research was a novel way of working for the team in Ghana, a reflective approach was taken to outline step-by-step how the GSU team planned and undertook these involvement activities with 31 hernia patients, two Chiefs (community leaders), a community finance officer and a local politician in various locations in Ghana. The barriers that were experienced and the benefits of involving community stakeholders are highlighted with the aim to add to the evidence base of CEI in LMICs.
Results: GSU members from the UK and Ghana planned and organised successful involvement activities that focused on establishing the best way to talk to patients and other community stakeholders about their experiences of living with hernias and undergoing hernia repairs, and their perceptions of the impact of hernias on the wider community. The Ghanaian team suggested 1:1 conversations in easily accessible locations for rural patient contributors, creating a welcoming environment and addressing contributors in their local dialects. A UK-based Public Advisory Group helped in the initial stages of planning these conversations by highlighting potential barriers when approaching rural communities and advising on how to phrase questions around personal experiences. Conversations mainly focused on understanding the needs of hernia patients in rural Ghana to then incorporate these in the design of the TIGER trial to ensure its relevance, acceptability and feasibility. When talking to patient contributors, the GSU teams found that they were more likely to open up when they knew members of the team and the opportunity to speak to local leaders only arose because of the Ghanaian team members being well-respected amongst communities. The experiences of the patient and community contributors led to changes in the study protocol, such as including women in the patient cohort for the trial, and allowed the GSU teams to confirm the relevance and acceptability of this trial. These conversations also taught the team a lot about perceptions of health in rural communities, allowed the Ghanaian team to establish relationships with community leaders that can be utilised when future studies need input from the public, and has changed the minds of the Ghanaian research team about the importance of involving patients with research.
Conclusion: This paper contributes to the evidence base on successful CEI activities in LMICs by providing an example of how CEI can be planned and organised, and the benefits this provides. The conversations the teams had with patient contributors in Ghana are an example of successful patient consultations. Even though there are certain limitations to the extent of these involvement activities, a solid foundation has been built for researchers and community stakeholders to establish relationships for ongoing involvement.

Predictors of Rehabilitation Service Utilisation among Children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC): Findings from the Global LMIC CP Register

Background: We assessed the rehabilitation status and predictors of rehabilitation service utilisation among children with cerebral palsy (CP) in selected low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Methods: Data from the Global LMIC CP Register (GLM-CPR), a multi-country register of children with CP aged <18 years in selected countries, were used. Descriptive and inferential statistics (e.g., adjusted odds ratios) were reported. Results: Between January 2015 and December 2019, 3441 children were registered from Bangladesh (n = 2852), Indonesia (n = 130), Nepal (n = 182), and Ghana (n = 277). The proportion of children who never received rehabilitation was 49.8% (n = 1411) in Bangladesh, 45.8% (n = 82) in Nepal, 66.2% (n = 86) in Indonesia, and 26.7% (n = 74) in Ghana. The mean (Standard Deviation) age of commencing rehabilitation services was relatively delayed in Nepal (3.9 (3.1) year). Lack of awareness was the most frequently reported reason for not receiving rehabilitation in all four countries. Common predictors of not receiving rehabilitation were older age at assessment (i.e., age of children at the time of the data collection), low parental education and family income, mild functional limitation, and associated impairments (i.e., hearing and/or intellectual impairments). Additionally, gender of the children significantly influenced rehabilitation service utilisation in Bangladesh. Conclusions: Child’s age, functional limitation and associated impairments, and parental education and economic status influenced the rehabilitation utilisation among children with CP in LMICs. Policymakers and service providers could use these findings to increase access to rehabilitation and improve equity in rehabilitation service utilisation for better functional outcome of children with CP

Management of chronic non-communicable diseases in Ghana: a qualitative study using the chronic care model

While the burden and mortality from chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) have reached epidemic proportions in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), decision-makers and individuals still consider CNCDs to be infrequent and, therefore, do not pay the needed attention to their management. We, therefore, explored the practices and challenges associated with the management of CNCDs by patients and health professionals.

This was a qualitative study among 82 CNCD patients and 30 health professionals. Face-to-face in-depth interviews were used in collecting data from the participants. Data collected were analysed using thematic analysis.

Experiences of health professionals regarding CNCD management practices involved general assessments such as education of patients, and specific practices based on type and stage of CNCDs presented. Patients’ experiences mainly centred on self-management practices which comprised self-restrictions, exercise, and the use of anthropometric equipment to monitor health status at home. Inadequate logistics, work-related stress due to heavy workload, poor utility supply, and financial incapability of patients to afford the cost of managing their conditions were challenges that militated against the effective management of CNCDs.

A myriad of challenges inhibits the effective management of CNCDs. To accelerate progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on reducing premature mortality from CNCDs, the Ghana Health Service and management of the respective hospitals should ensure improved utility supply, adequate staff motivation, and regular in-service training. A chronic care management policy should also be implemented in addition to the review of the country’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) by the Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Authority to cover the management of all CNCDs.

Utilization of eye health services and diabetic retinopathy: a cross-sectional study among persons living with diabetes visiting a tertiary eye care facility in Ghana

There have been a major advance made in screening, early diagnosis, and prompt treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy among Person living with diabetes (PLWD). However, screening services remain a challenge in Low-Middle-Income-Countries where access to eye care professionals is inadequate. This study assesses the utilization of Eye Health Service prevalence (UEHS) among PLWD and associated factors and further quantifies its association with Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR).

A cross-sectional study design with a random sample of 360 PLWD was conducted at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, a National Referral Centre in Ghana from May to July 2019. UEHS and DR were the study outcomes. We adopted Poisson and Probit regression analysis to assess factors associated with UEHS over the past year. We employed pairwise and phi correlation (fourfold correlational analysis) to assess the relationship between UEHS and DR (ordinal and binary respectively). Ordered Logistic and Poisson regression were applied to assess the association between the UEHS and DR. Stata 16.1 was used to perform the analyses and a p-value ≤ 0.05 was deemed significant.

The prevalence of UEHS over the past year and DR was 21.7 %(95 %CI = 17.7–26.2) and 65.0 %(95 %CI = 59.9–69.8 respectively. The prevalence of severe NPDR with Clinically Significant Macular Edema (CSME) was 23.9 %(19.8–28.6). Type of diabetes, increasing age, educational level, mode of payment for healthcare services, marital status, years since diagnosis, and current blood glucose significantly influenced UEHS. There was a negative relationship between DR and UEHS (Pairwise and φ correlation were − 20 and − 15 respectively; p < 0.001). Non-UEHS among PLWD doubles the likelihood of experiencing severe NPDR with CSME compared with UEHS among PLWD [aOR(95 %CI) = 2.05(1.03–4.08)]. Meanwhile, the prevalence of DR among patients per non-UEHS was insignificantly higher [12 %; aPR(95 %CI) = 0.89–1.41)] compared with patients who utilized eye care health service.

Most of the PLWD did not utilize the eye health service even once in a year and that was highly influenced by type of diabetes and increasing age. Type 2 diabetes patients and middle age decreased the likelihood of UEHS. There was a negative relationship between DR and UEHS among PLWD and this doubled the likelihood of experiencing severe NPDR with CSME. Structured health education and screening interventions are key to improving UEHS.

Evaluation of postoperative refractive error correction after cataract surgery

Suboptimal cataract surgery outcomes remain a challenge in most developing countries. In Ghana, about 2 million people have been reported to be blind due to cataract with about 20% new cases being recorded yearly. The aim of this study was to evaluate postoperative correction of refractive errors after cataract surgery in a selected eye hospital in Ashanti Region, Ghana. This was a retrospective study where medical records of patients (aged 40–100) who reported to an eye hospital in Ghana from 2013–2018 were reviewed. Included in the study were patients aged ≥40 years and patients with complete records. Data on patient demographics, type of surgery, intra-ocular lens (PCIOL) power, availability of biometry, postoperative refraction outcomes, pre- and postoperative visual acuity were analyzed. Data of two hundred and thirteen eyes of 190 patients who met the inclusion criteria were analyzed. Descriptive analysis and Chi-square test were carried out to determine the mean, median, standard deviation and relevant associations. The mean ± SD age was 67.21±12.2 years (51.2% were females). Small Incision Cataract Surgery (99.5%) with 100% IOL implants was the main cataract surgery procedure in this study. Pre-operative biometry was performed for 38.9% of all patients on their first eye surgery and 41.5% for second eye surgeries. About 71% eyes in this study were blind (presenting VA<3/60) before surgery; 40.4% had post-operative VA <3/60. Pre-existing ocular comorbidities discovered post- surgery, attributed to suboptimal visual outcomes. More than half (55.3%) of patients did not undergo postoperative refraction due to loss to follow-up. Year of surgery (p = .017), follow up visits< 2months (p < .0001) and discovered comorbidity post-surgery (p = .035) were the factors significantly associated with postoperative refraction. Myopia and compound myopic astigmatism were the dominant refractive error outcomes. The timing of post-operative refraction had a significant effect on postoperative refraction done. These findings indicate a clinically meaningful significance between completion of postoperative care and postoperative refraction done. Consequently, with settings in most developing countries, where less biometry is done, it is appropriate that post-operative refractive services are encouraged and done earlier to enhance the patients’ expectations while increasing cataract surgery patronage.

Adopting localised health financing models for universal health coverage in Low and middle-income countries: lessons from the National Health lnsurance Scheme in Ghana

The health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) have recently increased awareness of the need for countries to increase fiscal space for health. Prior to these, many Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) had embraced the concept of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and have either commenced or are in the process of implementing various models of health insurance in order to provide financial access to health care to their populations. While evidence of a relationship between experimentation with UHC and increased access to and utilisation of health care in LMICs is common, there is inadequate research evidence on the specific health financing model that is most appropriate for pursuing the objectives of UHC in these settings. Drawing on a synthesis of empirical and theoretical discourses on the feasibility of UHC in LMICs, this paper argues that the journey towards UHC is not a ‘one size fits all’ process, but a long-term policy engagement that requires adaptation to the specific socio-cultural and political economy contexts of implementing countries. The study draws on the WHO’s framework for tracking progress towards UHC using the implementation of a mildly progressive pluralistic health financing model in Ghana and advocates a comprehensive discourse on the potential for LMICs to build resilient and responsive health systems to facilitate a gradual transition towards UHC.

Epidemiology of Surgical Amputations in Tamale Teaching Hospital, Ghana

The current study aimed to explore the details of surgical amputations in Tamale, Ghana. This was a retrospective descriptive study. We analyzed case files of 112 patients who underwent surgical amputations
between 2011 and 2017. Demographics, site of amputation, indication for amputation, and outcomes were
retrieved from case files. Descriptive statistics were used to report the means and frequencies. Associations
between variables were assessed using Chi-Square, ANOVA, and Student’s t-test. The mean age of the participants was 43.6±23.1 years (range 2 to 86). Most (64.3%) were males. Lower limb amputations accounted for most (78.6%) cases. Diabetic vasculopathy was the most prevalent indication (44.6%), followed by trauma (36.6%). The mean hospital stay was 30.1±22.4 days (range 5 to 120). Surgical site infection (17.9%) was the main complication. In our study setting, there is thus far limited capability for proper management of diabetes mellitus, which needs to be improved. There is also an urgent need for multidisciplinary foot care teams that will help patients receive comprehensive care to reduce complications from diabetes and other vasculopathies