Intersectionality and health in Ghana: How can Ghana tackle barriers to care?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Wireko Andrew Awuah, a Ghanaian medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine and Ms. Owusu Yaa Asieduwaa, a 3rd year Doctor of pharmacy student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Intersectionality is an approach that recognizes that health is shaped by a multi – dimensional overlapping of factors such as race, class, income, education, age, ability, sexual orientation, immigration status, ethnicity, geography among others. These indicate that intersectionality deal with a vast area and multiple factors in healthcare.

This article highlights some aspects of intersectionality which pertains in my native country, Ghana.

(1) MENTAL HEALTH  :  Mental health issues in Ghana are poorly handled by the society and the healthcare systems, receiving the least attention by the Ghanaian health authorities. Also, many societies in Ghana treat mental health with superstition depriving mental health victims getting access to the proper health care they require. Some even seek help from unorthodox sources such as worship centers, instead of seeking help from healthcare professionals.

(2) PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES :  Persons with disabilities usually find it difficult to access healthcare. Health infrastructure such as buildings are in most cases, not disability friendly, particularly for the visually impaired. Basic aids such as lifts, rump, wheel chairs and others are almost not available in most health facilities where persons with disabilities go for care. Some healthcare professionals are belligerent to people with disability hence these people find it difficult to access the hospital. The deaf and dumb also find it difficult to interact with these health workers hence do not find the need to access healthcare.

(3)  SOCIO – CULTURAL : Some health conditions such as cerebral palsy, albinism, birth deformities and congenital conditions which are not scientifically understood by some societies, are seen as taboos or omen. In certain superstitious societies, children born with such deformities and conditions are unfortunately killed by the elders of the community since they see the existence of such children as a taboo or a big omen to their community. Such barbaric extinction of the so – called “children of river gods” make it extremely  difficult for parents of such children to openly seek appropriate healthcare for them for fear of their children being killed by community leaders if noticed.

These are just some of the barriers to care with respect to intersectionality and health in Ghana.

We can tackle barriers to care in various ways;

(i) EFFECTIVE HEALTH EDUCATION  AND COMMUNICATION :  Effective health education and communications should vigorously  be embarked on in Ghana to fight unnecessary superstition and stereotype in communities.

(ii) SOCIAL INTERVENTIONS : Social interventions such as effective and affordable health insurance, should be considered and implemented by policy makers in those countries to help tackle barriers to care.

In conclusion, Ghana and many other African countries need to make conscious action plan geared towards tackling barriers to care. Finding impartial and holistic solutions for tackling barriers to care with regard to intersectionality and health, would help improve the situation, resulting in a reduction in preventable mortality.

About the authors

Wireko Andrew Awuah is a Ghanaian medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine.  He serves as an Editorial Board Member at the Harvard Public Health Review, and 4 other reputable journals in the UK, Canada and India.  Andrew is a proud winner of best International Medical Student Award 2020, Sumy State University.

Owusu Yaa Asieduwaa is a 3rd year Doctor of pharmacy student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. She loves to writing and enjoying music.

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