Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Developing Pandemic Resilience in Ghana: Ghana CDC and the Health Research Centres
Ghana Covid-19 pandemic response has been largely anchored by the two foreign-funded medical research centres. These are Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR/Noguchi) and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR). KCCR's capacity is thanks to the German Government. Noguchi is mainly by the Japanese Government. Now that the President of Ghana and the Government know better, they should do better. They should not expect the neglected scientific and research community to suddenly find their voice and step up their long drawn out fight for funding and recognition. This will not happen because we know too well the behavior of politicians during the time of disaster. They will appear to have learned only to drop the ball and return to default state. Our leaders suffer from low intellectual fortitude and limited far-sighted visionary capacity. So, here is the challenge, allow the pandemic response to cause you to lose your resistance to doing the right thing for the sector over the long term. That is the only viable way to delivering lasting capacity readiness to fight any future pandemic and all the many silent pandemic of poor health outcomes for many Ghanaians.
Ghana's many CSIR institutes and the three Health Research Institutes are hardly funded beyond salaries of workers. It is good news that Government of President Akufo Addo is determined to establish Ghana's Centre of Disease Control (Ghana CDC), with two branches in the Northern and Southern sectors of the country. What needs to scale up rapidly this the Health Research Institutes. At the moment there are only three, in Dodowa, Kintampo and Navrongo. To deal adequately with the growing more challenging needs of the future the current three-centre Health Research System should be expanded to 16 to cover all the 16 regions and placed directly under the Ghana Health Service and the new Ghana CDC. To be effective the these centres must operate with a small number of permanent staff and a large active group of graduate students from the existing Universities who are engaged in field and community health research.
These new health centres must be mandated to carry out comprehensive research into all aspects of health conditions in the respective regions in a close alignment with the veterinary centres to achieve ONE-Health outcomes. Besides the graduate students driving the activities of the health research centres, all the clinical laboratory scientists in all the health facilities in the respective regions must to associated with their Health Research Centres to integrate the work in the clinics with that in the communities.
The CSIR system was established to do for the Water, Food, Agriculture, Forestry, Transport, Roads, Housing and Industrial sectors, what the Health Research Centre and the new Ghana CDC is expected to do for the health sector. It is important that the pandemic resilience agenda be envisioned in an integrated manner with all the key sectors of the nation's economy. At the core of the pandemic response are the ideals of local innovation and self-reliance. CSIR system also needs an urgent expansion and modernization to include ICT, Energy, Clothing, marine technology, mining and geoscience technology, chemical and bio-technology, nanotechnology, space technology institutes, etc. The human resource management innovation needed to keep these many centres vibrant is to operate them as elite centres of training, technology and product development through partnership with the Universities and Technical Universities to conduct post-graduate skills training. People who seek permanent employment must be encouraged to use these centres to transfer skills and technology to the private sector to generate the needed economic growth for Ghana. Let us therefore decide that a pandemic resilient Ghana is also a Ghana that prosperous and self-reliant.
This Piece has been published in the Daily Graphic of 4th June 2020.