The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), to promote behavioural change in 17 selected districts in Northern Ghana, for improved health outcomes.
The “Accelerating Social and Behaviour Change,” (ASBC) project, at an estimated cost of 29.1 million dollars, is spanning five years from 2021 to 2026.
Dr Zohra Balsara, the Health Population and Nutrition Team Lead at USAID and the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye signed the agreement.
In a remark, Dr Balsara said behavioural change was key to enable citizens make informed decisions on their health to achieve expected results in the sector.
“We may give individuals the resources and information to make healthy choices but unless we understand the factors that inhibit or motivate the adoption of behaviour, we will not make lasting behaviour change.”
The ASBC project which would be spearheaded by the Health Promotion Directorate (HPD) of the GHS, she explained, would among others, build the capacity of health staff, develop risk communication materials for locals, initiate social and behaviour change (SBC) campaigns with implementing civil society organisations (CSOs), community information centres and the private sector to enable residents live healthy lifestyles.
Dr Balsara said drawing on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important that health promotion officers reinforce positive behaviours through interpersonal communication and regular in-person contacts with citizens.
“HPD is the foundation of all successful health interventions and we will rely on your leadership and expertise to ensure that beneficiary communities are informed and empowered to make healthy decisions,” she said.
“We know behaviour change is not easy but we are committed to doing it differently and we are excited to see the results we achieve together over the next five years to improve demand and uptake of healthy behaviours,” Dr Balsara said.
The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Kuma-Aboagye commended the USAID for partnering the Service over the years to advance healthcare delivery in the country.
According to him, as Ghana’s economy rebounds from the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASBC project was timely to build renewed awareness among the public to adopt healthy behaviour and practices for quality wellbeing.
“With good leadership, effective collaboration and experienced technical support, I have the firm belief that we will achieve great results in the five-year duration of the project,” he stated.
For his part, the Director of the HPD, Dr Dacosta Aboagye observed that the gaping socio-economic disparities in the north inhibited healthy living and behaviour.
He expressed the need for SBC programming to be intensified in such areas to “drive the demand uptake of health services, enhance capacity to deliver high-quality SBC interventions and mobilise the private sector to expand beyond its support of COVID-19 prevention methods to fully participant in the general public health agenda.”
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH