Ghana selected as a model of integration of Traditional and Alternative Medicine into the health systems in the Sub-Region.

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Ministry of Health as a critical sector contributes to the Socio-Economic development of this country by promoting Health and vitality through access to quality health to all people living in Ghana using well motivated personnel to ensure a healthy and productive population that reproduces itself safely.

This can be achieved through the following health sector policy objectives:

  1. Ensure sustainability, affordable, equitable and accessible healthcare services (Universal Health Coverage UHC).
  2. Reduce morbidity, disability mortality and intensify prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.
  3. Enhance efficiency in governance and management of the health system.
  4. Intensify prevention and control of communicable diseases and ensure the reduction of new HIV and AIDS infections, especially among the vulnerable groups.

Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate (TAMD) of the Ministry of Health which was established as a unit in 1991 and later upgraded into full Directorate in 1999, has the mandate   to protect the health of the citizens by strengthening the regulatory agencies to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicinal products and services in the country.

Traditional and Alternative Medicine (T&AM) is an important and often underestimated part of health care. T&AM is found in almost every country in the world and the demand for its services is increasing. Traditional Medicine, of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, contributes to the goal of ensuring that all people have access to health care. Many countries now recognize the need to develop a cohesive and integrative approach to health care that allows governments, health care practitioners and, most importantly, those who use health care services, to access T&AM in a safe, respectful, cost-efficient and effective manner.

The role of Traditional Medicine in promoting and augmenting the health of the people of Ghana cannot be over-emphasized thus Traditional Medicine is the first source of health care for about 70% of the population in developing countries including Ghana, World Health Organization (WHO). The World and Ghana at large, for the past decades have embraced traditional medicine practice to complement the orthodox or biomedical practice for health care delivery.

The 1978 Alma-Ata Declaration cited Traditional Medicine practitioners among health workers that Primary Health Care (PHC) relies on to respond to expressed health needs of the community. Since then, the World Health Organization (WHO) governing bodies and countries have adopted resolutions on traditional medicine.

The World Health Organization recommends the integration of herbal medicine with orthodox medicine to its member countries. WHO in that attempt updated the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023 which aimed to support member states in developing proactive policies and implementing action plans that will strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations health. In response, a policy document was designed to coordinate the general policy direction in the area of Traditional Medicine in Ghana.

One key element in achieving the Regional strategy is the implementation of the “integration policy” of traditional Medicine into the main healthcare system.

With the broad objective of seeking to improve Traditional Medicine and to ensure effective development and integration of Traditional and Alternative Medicine as a distinctive medical practice system, the Ministry of Health through the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate pursues the Regional strategy so as to achieve its agenda.

A recommendation was therefore made in 2011 to integrate the herbal medicine with orthodox medicine practice in the health sector and this has been piloted in nineteen (19) herbal units in selected regional and districts hospitals across the country.

The “Integration policy” which seeks to promote Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as stated earlier has seen great improvement from the time it was started in 2011 to date. The integration started with three (three) pilot centres but currently there are nineteen (19) pilot centres in these hospitals: Ledzokuku Krowor Municipal Assembly (LEKMA), Tema Poly Clinic, Shai Osudoku District Hospital, Koforidua Regional Hospital, Ho Municipal Hospital, Volta Regional Hospital, Cape Coast Metropolitan Hospital, Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital, Obuasi Government Hospital, Kumasi South Hospital, Suntreso Government Hospital, Tafo Government Hospital, Brong Ahafo Regional Hospital, Tamale Central Hospital, Tamale West Hospital, Yendi Government Hospital, Salaga Government Hospital, Upper East Regional Hospital, Upper West Regional Hospital.

As part of strengthening the integration of Herbal Medicine into the main health care stream, nineteen pilot Herbal Centres have been created for the use of defined Herbal Medicine Practice by trained / skilled professionals in these selected health facilities. These centers are superintended by Medical Herbalists who are graduates of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and have also received internship training at Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR), Mampong –Akwapim and Tetteh-Quarshie Memorial Hospital also at Mampong-Akwapim.

It is therefore in the light of this achievement that, Ghana was selected among two African countries for on-site visit by a delegation from World Health Organization from 7th to 9th March, 2018 to discuss with relevant stakeholders and carry out a situational analysis and also to discuss best practices on the integration of T&AM in Ghana.

The delegation was made up of:

  • Zhang Qi, Coordinator, Traditional, Complementary and Integrative medicine, WHO
  • Aditi Sharan, Consultant, Traditional, Complementary and Integrative medicine, WHO
  • Sara Lesley Warber, Professor Emerita of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, Michigan
  • Werner Knöss, Head of Division Licensing 4- Complementary and Alternative Medicines and Traditional Medicines, Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, Bonn, Germany
  • Professor Vinjar Magne Fonnebo, Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine, National Research centre in CAM (NAFKAM) in Tromso, Norway
  • Ossy M. J. Kasilo, Technical Officer, Traditional Medicine, Health Systems and Services Cluster, WHO regional Office for Africa, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

The purpose of the visit was to support and provide guidance to Member States if and when they implement the integration traditional and Alternative medicine (T&AM) in the healthcare systems of their countries, especially Primary Health Care services, and to facilitate international best practices sharing the T&AM for contributing to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

As stated earlier, Ghana had already started the integration process; so the mandate was to monitor the progress of the policy and to suggest various ways to address challenges relating to the execution of the policy.

As part of their visit, they held meetings with the Honorable Minister for Health, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu (MP for Dormaa Central) and the Ag. Director for TAMD, Dr. (Mrs.) Anastasia Yirenkyi.  The team also engaged the stakeholders of Traditional Medicine which include, Ghana Health Service (GHS), Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Traditional Medicine Practice Council (TMPC), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Associations (GHAFTRAM) and the first pilot unit at LEKMA hospital.

After having dialogue with these stakeholders, it was ascertained that Ghana had made strides in the implementation of the “Integration policy” which leads to a positive growth towards Traditional Medicine development and the fulfillment of the 2014–2023 Global Strategy. The Government of Ghana has made provision to scale -up the Herbal Medicine centres to other health facilities in the country.

In conclusion, the leader of the delegation Dr. Zhang Qi who is the Coordinator for Traditional, Complementary and Integrative medicine of WHO had this to say “We have experienced and seen more than we have heard”

Dr. (Mrs.) Anastasia Yirenkyi
Dr. (Mrs.) Anastasia Yirenkyi

By: PHARM. DR. (MRS) ANASTASIA YIRENKYI

The writer is the Acting Director of Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate of the Ministry of Health, Member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGh), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)

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