The Ghana NCDs Alliance (GhNCDA) has held a national multi-sectoral high level meeting on NCDs with a call on the government to ban the smoking of shisha in the country to save the people from death.
The meeting advocated that the Minister of Health issued administrative order to ban the product and also regulate the advertisement of alcoholic beverages.
The programme was sponsored by Global NCD Alliance, the Norwegian Cancer Society and the GhNCDA.The GhNCDA is a network of Non-Governmental Organisations with the mission “To be a leading organisation contributing to reducing NCD related deaths and disabilities through health promotion, proper coordination, health system strengthening and improving the quality of lives of people living with NCDs in Ghana.”
Dr Akwasi Kyei-Faried, a Deputy Director of the Ghana Health Service made the call after making a presentation at the meeting, which was aimed at unearthing the challenges and progress Ghana had made in addressing the NCD burden.
It was also used to identify specific set of priorities within the overall NCD agenda with a view to implementing effective national responses for the prevention and control of NCDs, to help scale up health approaches for the country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals target 3.4.
It is to also to establish the preparedness and the importance of Ghana’s participation in the United Nation High Level Meeting on NCDs slated for September, 2018.Dr Kyei-Faried said research had shown that there was no health, economic and social benefits in tobacco smoking, hence the World Health Organisation (WHO) came out with the first public health law – Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which all parties/nations subscribed to, including Ghana.
“In Ghana we have used the FCTC to come out with the Public Health Act which had Tobacco Control Measures and a lot of things had gone into tobacco control for the past 17 years or so. We have been able to work and move from 4.8 per cent of cigarette smoking among Junior High School students to 2.8 per cent and we cannot allow shisha to take us back to 5.3 per cent, which is higher than cigarette smoking among students 17 years ago.
“The tobacco industry does not want us to succeed and so it has now used another channel glamourising shisha by using water pipe, put tobacco and menthol to make it mint and tasty to the tongue to lure the youth,” he said.
Dr Kyei-Faried said one out 20 JHS students were taking shisha, adding; “am not talking about Senior High School Students or adults, but JHS students who go to the beaches and some corners where the shisha bottles are placed and they start smoking, which is dangerous.”
He said shisha was more deadly than cigarette and therefore the Ministry of Health must ban it, stating that; “Uganda, Kenya and other countries had banned the use of shisha – you will be arrested when you are seen smoking in public and Ghana must go that level.”
Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister of Health in a statement read on his behalf said the Government would partner civil society organisations to develop and scale up community-led services to People Living with Non-Communicable Diseases (PLWNCDs) and to address stigma and discrimination.
He said: “These people are under-represented as leaders in organisations and silent in decision-making processes. This situation must be corrected in order to recognise the rights and responsibilities of people living with NCDs.
The Minister said the Government was also considering a tax hike on tobacco, alcohol and sugar drinks to serve as a means of revenue to fund health and that when approved would also help reduce the burden on the health infrastructure.
He said the passage and adoption of the Public Health Act (Act 851) (Tobacco Control Measures) and the Tobacco Control Regulations (LI2247) in 2012 and 2016 respectively, the National Alcohol Policy of 2016, the National Cancer Strategy and the National Strategy on Prevention and Control of Chronic NCDs, among others were some positive steps aimed at addressing the NCDs menace in Ghana.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said the prevention of cancer and other diet-related NCDs were arguably the most significant public health challenges of the 21st century and the WHO 2017 NCDs Progress Monitor, in NCDs were responsible for 101,000 deaths.He mentioned the risk factors as; tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and alcohol consumption and their underlying determinant were social, economic, political, environment and cultural factors.
Dr Beatrice Wiafe, the Chairperson of the Ghana NCD Alliance in her welcoming address said the NCDs had been pushed under the carpet for far too long even though the (WHO) as far as 2002 came out a research that cancers were killing more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
“Those of us in the developing world thought that cancers are white man’s sicknesses and other non-communicable diseases. We thought we were immuned to them so all of our attention have been communicable diseases, but recent research has shown that 44 per cent of all deaths come from NCDs which is close to 50 per cent so we have to sit up,” she said.
Dr Wiafe said the Global NCD Alliance was there watching Ghana looking at what we were doing about NCDs and that there was the need to help before they could come into assist.
She said: “And so we need to start by educating the people by creating the awareness of the diseases because ignorance is no excuse. We need to talk to the people about the need for diagnosis and screening, treatment and rehabilitation after the persons has been treated or diagnosed.”
She called on the media, the Ghana Medical Association, the Food and Drugs Authority, civil society organisations, and every Ghanaians to be on board to educate the people on the health effects of alcoholism, junk foods and tobacco smoking.Other personalities who addressed the function are; Professor George Yaw Gyan Baffour, Minister of Planning, and Chair, Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Ghana, Dr Eugene Owusu, Special Advisor to the President on the SDGs, Madam Joana Ansong, World Health Organisation-Ghana, Country Representative, Dr Baffour Awuah who represented the Minister of Health and Mr Labram Musah, National Coordinator, Ghana NCD Alliance.