NewsFaith-Based Initiatives Propel Healthcare Advocacy in Ghana's District

Faith-Based Initiatives Propel Healthcare Advocacy in Ghana’s District

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Accra, Ghana – In the realm of health system delivery, community engagement and participation emerge as pivotal factors. Community actors, particularly those involved in faith-based organizations, wield significant influence in fostering the demand for health services and advocating community ownership of public health interventions, notably at the primary level of healthcare.

In the Twifo-Hemang-Lower-Denkyira-District (THLDD), the noteworthy contributions of Maame Sofo Sarah Pamful and her faith-based organization, New Jerusalem Prayer Garden, have left an indelible mark on healthcare delivery and the early detection of health conditions or diseases of interest.

“As a leader in society, I must ensure that my followers make the right decisions that will positively impact their health. That is why I have been helping them understand that the solution to health problems lies in hospitals,” expressed Maame Sofo, the Overseer of the New Jerusalem Prayer Garden.

Since 2004, Maame Sofo has fervently advocated for Primary Health Care services. Situated along the Twifo-Hemang-Nsuntem Road, her prayer camp stands as an exemplary model of how faith-based actors can actively contribute to surveillance and healthcare in general. As an advocate, Maame Sofo has played a crucial role in referring pregnant women to health centers for Antenatal Care (ANC) and delivery services.

Moreover, she has successfully influenced a shift in the health-seeking behavior of expectant mothers, encouraging them to patronize ANC services at the health center instead of opting for Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA). This achievement has been realized through educational initiatives and timely referrals. Unlike other prayer camps, Maame Sofo only accepts expectant mothers who have initially visited the Antenatal Clinic, ensuring they complete all ANC visits.

“Sofo Maame Sarah Pamful’s activities at the New Jerusalem prayer camp have significantly improved our ANC coverage over the years. Many pregnant women and OPD cases have been referred to Hemang Health Center and Nsuntem Community Health Planning and Service (CHPS) due to her collaboration with us,” stated Mary Boadi, the Physician Assistant of Hemang Health Center.

Similarly, in addressing the low attendance of Child Welfare Clinic (CWC) by caretakers/mothers, the Overseer provided a shelter within the prayer camp for Community Health Nurses to deliver CWC services. This strategic location has facilitated increased visits by caregivers to the CWC, thereby enhancing immunization services for children under five. Maame Sofo’s ability to mobilize the community, including caregivers, has proven pivotal for both routine and campaign immunization sessions.

Over the years, the New Jerusalem Prayer Garden has played a proactive role by notifying Nsuntem CHPS and Hemang Health Center of various diseases and health events for prompt action. In the past five years alone, 31 priority conditions have been reported by the prayer camp to the Health Center or District Health Administration for treatment or further investigations.

The District Health Administration has duly recognized the Overseer of New Jerusalem Prayer Garden as exceptionally cooperative and exemplary. Edmund Bowah, the District Disease Control Officer, remarked, “Activities of Sofo Maame have contributed to an increase in Tuberculosis case detection and a reduction in defaulter rate/cases. The camp itself serves as a DOT Center for the treatment and management of TB cases.”

It is noteworthy that the health belief model of some community members underscores the significance of these prayer camps as crucial collaborators in health service delivery.

Cecilia Ofori, a caregiver, shared her experience, stating, “I came to the prayer camp with a 3-year-old baby with difficulty in walking, weight loss, and wasted muscles. In addition to prayers, I was referred to Hemang Health Center to see a Nutritionist for nutritional care, and now my baby can walk on both legs.”

“The activities of this prayer camp align with WHO’s efforts to promote health for all. We will continue to work with every stakeholder to promote the health and well-being of the people,” emphasized Prof. Francis Kasolo, WHO Representative to Ghana.

In many communities, visits to prayer camps constitute an integral aspect of health-seeking behavior. Recognizing this, there is a pressing need to engage faith-based leaders to ensure that prayer camps and other religious establishments play a crucial role in the promotion, protection, and provision of appropriate healthcare for all.

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