Health is the underlying theme in the context of global development, with 6 out of the 8 Millennium Development Goals committed to it one way or another. There is no one solution for healthcare, it has to be tailored to the region in question and that is what proving extremely arduous for very isolated and remote areas of the world. However advances in the Telehealth (also referred to Telemedicine and eHealth) field have made access to primary health care an actuality.
The importance of primary health care is somewhat misunderstood. Primary health care is the first point of contact and is where the most preventative health can be achieved as well as avoiding future and expensive medical treatment. Primary health care is also people-centred and usually supports wider educational issues for instance hygiene and sexual health within the community. WHO states that ‘the better use of existing preventive measures could reduce the global burden of disease by 70 percent’, and this is exactly what Telehealth sets out to achieve.
Since the turn of the century, Telehealth has grown in popularity and most importantly in efficiency. We take a closer look at the Bonsaaso Cluster in Ghana to highlight technological developments in the health sector.
SMART Approaches to Overcoming Geographical Barriers
The Telemedicine Project in the Bonsaaso Cluster, Ghana is one of the many examples of incorporating ICT with healthcare. Home to around 32,000 covering 6 Millennium Villages and thirty communities the project began in August 2010. Situated among thick rainforest, making your way from the most distant village in the cluster to the nearest district hospital can take up to five hours, and significantly longer during the rainy season. The first port of call was infrastructure, the instalment of masts and antennae were fundamental for the better mobile coverage needed for the project. Bypassing unnecessary transport, Teleconsultation aims to reduce the cost for patients and their families to seek out medical advice. It does so by allowing for the exchange of information and interaction of patients between their local health workers and doctors without the need for travelling excessive distances. It also enables doctors and medical staff to have greater access to training through workshops and support.
Ghana’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications ‘national eagerness’ to endorse more ICT strategies to better facilitate development lead to telco industry giants Airtel and Ericsson providing the technical support while inancial backing from the foundation of Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis, has made all this possible. This trend has caught on among other large corporations including Philips in Kenya and GMV in Peru. These partnerships between multi stakeholders is another demonstration of how participatory multi-level collaborations are vital for the success projects.
Although creative solutions are somewhat tackling the overarching issue of access, the healthcare problem is far more complex than simply affordability and accessibility. Health and the access to healthcare are both pillars of our basic human rights as declared in Article 25 of the Declaration of Human Rights.
Yet healthcare is not only an issue in the developing countries. OECD countries faces health crises of their own mostly non-communicable diseases, which still require much deliberation. There are the ‘Determinants of Health‘ that allow for people to lead a healthy life include:
- Safe Drinking Water and Adequate Sanitation,
- Safe Food,
- Adequate Nutrition and Housing,
- Healthy Working and Environmental Conditions and
- Gender Equality.
For more information on the project please click here
2015 is the deadline for the MDGs. Our editorial special, Sustainable Development 2.0, will explore the changes that sustainable development has undergone in the past decade and bring to light projects, initiatives and policies that are implementing smart approaches to mark a turnaround for the movement as the SDGs come into effect.