Building local capacity in Ghana's adolescent health sector: handover ceremony
The DFID funded Ghana Adolescent Reproductive Health (GHARH) project, currently in its third year of implementation, continues to build the capacity of adolescent friendly sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and providers around the country. With improved capacity comes a vast improvement in the quality of health services provided to Ghanaian adolescents.
At an official ceremony last week, GHARH coordinated a handover of 54 refurbished adolescent health corners to the Ghana Health Service in the Brong Ahafo region. Officiated by Jim McAlpine, Head of DFID Ghana, the ceremony recognised the importance of building local capacity with government stakeholders and health providers. The 54 refurbished and in some cases, newly constructed adolescent health corners provide safe and friendly spaces to cater exclusively for the provision of counselling and other services to adolescents in all 27 districts in the Brong Ahafo region.
As program implementer, Palladium collaborated with the Ghana Health Service to identify and select the 54 locations suitable for adolescent friendly service points. The identification and refurbishment of corners prior to the ceremony was important, due to the demand amongst adolescent populations in Ghana. Significantly, 41 percent of Ghanaians are under age 15, with 14 percent of adolescent girls (i.e. those between 15 to 19 years old) already mothers, or pregnant with their first child . The provision of safe spaces for adolescents to acquire knowledge and skills to prevent pregnancy is critical to the development of the young person, the entire community and the nation.
Other key ceremony attendants included Director General of the Ghana Health Service, the Deputy Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, the District Chief Executive for Asutifi South and the paramount chief and queen mother of Acherensua traditional area. In his handover speech, Jim McAlpine reiterated the importance of investing in adolescent health, which he said has ‘yielded modest gains including the increase in the number of young people who use modern contraceptive from 8.0% in 2012 to 12% in 2015’. He called for accelerated efforts in the provision of family planning services and warned that large scale population growth would exert further pressure on the economy, environment and other key services.
In his acceptance remarks, the Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Ebenezer Appiah Denkyira, promised to ensure that all 54 facilities are put to good use. He called on the traditional authorities, including queen mothers, to join in advocacy efforts, help generate demand and improve provision of services at the corners.
In his closing statement, Prof. Nana Agyewodin Adu Gyamfi Ampem emphasised the important role traditional authorities play in upholding traditional practices and values. This includes puberty rites, which can help adolescents obtain sexuality education and make informed choices through greater empowerment.
Currently, the GHARH-supported corners have reached more than 51,426 young people with SRH services and information in the region; and 6,245 health and education workers and Monitoring and Evaluation officers have been trained to enhance capacity to deliver components of adolescent-friendly health services in the Brong Ahafo region.
It is hoped that this support for the adolescent health corners will translate into sustainable safe spaces and service delivery points for adolescents. With sustained provision of health corners and services, Ghanaian providers and government bodies can achieve positive impact not just for adolescents, but for their families and communities.