By Isaac AIDOO, Accra
A visiting team of students and Teaching Assistants (TAs) from the Northeastern University of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States, have observed that Ghana’s health system has improved tremendously in the past decade.
The team, 30 in number, led by associate Professor with the Department of Applied Psychology, Dr Vanessa Dianna Johnson is visiting Ghana as part of the course work of that university-Dialogue of Civilizations to Ghana: Health Systems, Health Care, and Health Education.
The group has visited the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC) and other places of interest across the country.
Sharing her personal perspective of Ghana’s existing health system, the Northeastern University academic noted that “to me, it looks as if Ghana stepped into the future. It has state-of-the-art, training facilities, medical facilities and services that equal what other countries have and they defy the stereotype that Ghana has struggling institutions and that they’re behind in health care delivery.”
In the view of Dr Johnson, the marked improvement in the country’s heath system and infrastructure over the years stands Ghana out distinctly among her peers and “proves the direction the country is headed, which is the area of research, which is the future and the way to go.”
The Northeastern University intellectual who made the remarks during a recent exclusive interview with this paper at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), Legon, Accra, noted that it was in order to increase investments in Ghana’s health system but she was full of commendation for the progress made and how authorities in Ghana were ensuring that health infrastructure, health systems were being improved to serve its citizens.
Purpose of trip
One of two motivations for the visit to the health institutions in Ghana was for the students to be exposed to health care in a developing country and allow for them to see the structure of how health care delivery is in this particular country unlike that of the United States and then make the comparison.
It was also expected that the visiting team of students would make an impact on the destination they are visiting,
“The students have hygiene classes , they have held healthcare screening sessions for communities in Ghana, and so it’s not just a matter of coming to feel good but the objective is to also make sure we leave here better than we came to meet it,” Dr Johnson explained.
She and her team have in the recent past undertaken huge investments in education in Ghana including the building from the scratch of computer laboratories for schools and communities in Cape Coast.
After one of her visits to Ghana, she was informed of the need for a computer laboratory for a school in Cape Coast to help students acquire practical knowledge in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) so she rallied support from her country, which culminated in the donation every year of both new and used computers and their accessories to stock the newly built laboratory for the school.
She recalled, “we have a fundraising unit of the university where we raise money for such projects so we got for that school, some laptops both new and used, some desktops as well, we purchased printers, copiers.”
This year’s visit, she disclosed will see some more donation of ICT equipment to two more schools in Cape Coast and Bonwire, a town located in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipal district within the Ashanti region of Ghana
Pre-pandemic times, Dr Johnson had visited Ghana with her team of students but they made visits to chips compounds, regional hospitals and other health posts across the country.
Dialogue of Civilizations to Ghana: Health Systems, Health Care, and Health Education
It is a short-term, faculty-led study abroad programme from Northeastern University of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. It is led by Prof. Johnson with her Teaching Assistants: Lily Terrasson Honeysett, Amy Xaio, Breanna McCleary, Tyreke Gaston, and Rachel Bartkowski.
Groups of 10 to 30 students spend four to six weeks exploring a new culture, going on excursions and participating in various activities while taking a course that usually correspond to major or minor fields of study.
Dr Johnson is currently the faculty lead for two dialogues in Ghana—one called “Education and Learning in Ghana” and the second named ”Health Systems, Services And Education In Ghana.”
“They are short-term faculty-led study programs focused on critical issues facing society and offered during the summer in different locations around the world,” Prof Johnson says.
She says she gets to use all her abilities as an educator during such trips, including curriculum design, programme design, teaching and creativity.
Her priorities for the dialogue are safety, knowledge acquisition, cultural immersion, professional preparation and interpersonal growth.
In-Country Coordinator – Mr Edward Mudashiru Tetteh
Dr Johnson has a trusted in-country coordinator, Mr Edward Mudashiru Tetteh, Director of Brisk Protocol Services Limited who has provided logistical support for almost a dozen Ghana dialogues.
Mr Tetteh has among several other duties been coordinating the communication with the heads of institutions the teams visit.
He told this paper, “we are always happy to receive Dr Johnson’s team of students and TAs to Ghana and to afford them the opportunity to first experience our culture, learn about our history.
Ghanaians are very friendly -TAs
Teaching Assistants, Lily Terrasson Honeysett, Amy Xaio, Breanna McCleary, Tyreke Gaston, and Rachel Bartkowski all said they were pleasantly overwhelmed with the show of love from Ghanaians any time they stepped out into public places across the country.
Tyreke Gaston, on his way to becoming a doctor in the US said prior to coming on the trip, he wasn’t sure what to expect however he wanted to experience Ghana for himself beyond what he had read, heard or been told.
He says “the first time I came I realised that a lot of the stereotypes weren’t true , I saw that Ghana is very modern, in terms of infrastructure , its systems and structures; this time around I’m learning a lot more about the Ghanaian people.”
Tyreke says he’s got to know that Ghanaians are very friendly, “visit the market centres and everyone wants to come around and make you feel just good.”