Escalating health care costs continue to remain an issue of major concern to all countries and Ghana is no exception. We try health insurance, gamble with corporate bodies bearing healthcare costs of employees or government subsidizing or bearing full cost of the management of certain diseases, but all these tend to only SHIFT cost but do not in any way reduce the cost of healthcare.
If companies had less healthcare costs to pay, they will make more profits and also pay more taxes to speed up developments. The only tried and tested method that helps to curb rising healthcare costs is adopting a wellness programme or healthy lifestyle. Sounds too easy to be true? Give it a try!
In Ghana and other developing countries prevention of diseases including the lifestyle ones should be paramount. We have neither adequate technology nor human resources to manage the complications of such diseases. It also acts as a major strain on our scarce resources. Unfortunately very little effort is currently in place to educate and prevent life style diseases by adopting inexpensive wellness programmes which could include;
• Availability of appropriate health information to raise awareness
• Antismoking campaigns and increasing awareness of harmful effects of alcohol
• Regular medical screening
• Dietary advice
• Safety and First Aid Techniques
Such wellness programmes also educate people on preventing communicable diseases including HIV, STIs, cholera, typhoid etc.
Common illnesses that increase health care costs as well as increase the overall cost burden include:
• Life style diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol
• Common cold
• Back pain and neck pain
• Complications of smoking and alcohol indulgence
Assume one has high blood pressure and look at the cost of consultation, investigations, medication (even if generic medications) and real human hours away from work. Project these figures to include the use of branded medication, multiple disease states, cost of time off work etc. and you will have a fair idea of the devastating effect of not having a wellness programme in place. Especially in situations where we start off with a single medication but do not modify our lifestyles so more medication added over the course of time.
A single episode of severe back pain for instance could cost one over two thousand Ghana cedis when consultations (including referrals to specialists), investigations such as MRI, expensive medication and days off work are computed. Certainly exercising often and learning the appropriate posture while sitting, lifting and walking could have avoided this all at only a minute fraction of this amount. I am not my any means suggesting you can’t get these conditions when you adopt a healthy lifestyle; NO! But you reduce your risk and decrease the impact if it should occur.
• All corporate bodies and government agencies should start a wellness programme
o Such programmes should be “enforced” or a form of incentive given to encourage participation of everyone.
• Keep fit clubs should be encouraged and assisted by corporate bodies to acquire appropriate health information and not only be restricted to organizing walks (walking is great though)
• If government/international agencies/companies can subsidize the management of malaria, HIV etc. then it is about time we look at wellness programmes
• Just as there is a lunch break in school and work places, we need to create and enforce a “wellness period or break”
• We need to start young and make wellness a way of life – extend and expand physical education sessions in schools
Many people will insist they are so busy they cannot even squeeze in 10 minutes of exercise a day. Others are so hard pressed for time that reading an article on health, even one that directly affects them is a taboo. Do we really believe we are that indispensible?
Does it surprise you that cholera persists in Accra and we have another outbreak lurking in the shadows? Adopting a wellness programme or healthy lifestyle means a daily emphasis on preventing diseases through education and also taking practical steps. Many people will scream a building down if you should ask them to use the stairs instead of the lift, some will claim it’s their life and they should not be forced. Really? Your poor health will affect the national coffers and that cake we all so badly want to partake in may end up not being enough.
Have we considered that the only way we can have capitation (as in NHIS) working effectively is to have properly established wellness programmes in place. This will reduce the number of people who need medical care and even the amount spent per patron will be lower.
I can see a future where the clinician is underworked and instead of waiting for patients in the hospital, he will visit factories, offices, homes and churches and educate people on ways to prevent diseases. I hope you share in my dream. Together we can make this happen in our lifetime.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/Mobissel/St. Andrews Clinic
*Dr. Essel is a Medical Doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “There is no ideal time to start a wellness programme, start TODAY and make small changes as the days go by. You may start by sleeping 15 minutes earlier today and then walk for 15 minutes tomorrow morning.”
1. Cost Benefit Analysis & Report 1979-2001. University of Michigan Health Management Research Center
2. Six Reasons Why Health Promotion Makes Sense, Welcoa, 2002