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The last few days has seen several versions of the media reportage of the shocking demise of ace media personality Kwadwo Asare Baffour Acheampong a.k.a KABA. Sadly, the media preferred to respond to the sudden demise of KABA with the sensationalism we become so used to rather than using the opportunity to bring to light the real issues surrounding the rather high mortality rate of our active workforce due to heart related diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Ghanaians like scandals and melodrama so our media houses more often than not bombard us with sensationalism to whip up sentiments to satisfy our craze. The media houses hardly take time to really analyse issues and report on matters that are pertinent to the development of our great country.
According to statistics from the Ghana health service (GHS), non-communicable diseases such as stroke, heart diseases, kidney diseases and diabetes are killing our youth who form majority of our active workforce in Ghana than any other disease, and it is about time we address the issue head on instead of focusing on superstitions, workplace politics and other religious non-issues that are part of the struggles of life anyway.
The facts still remain that our beloved KABA was grossly overweight and would be described as a “highly obese” person in medical terms. He had a highly competitive, high pressure, demanding, ‘long-hours’ job as a ‘sit-down’ radio presenter. This was his routine as a journalist and he was expected to deliver his trade with the highest standards expected of his listeners. Let’s just ponder on this for a minute……
It is also known that KABA was hypertensive and had a sort of diabetes, possibly hypoglycaemia. Although this has not been confirmed yet, we can firmly say that he suffered from an ailment that was directly related to his weight and life style; to put it simply, his weight, profession and life style was incongruous to his health. Whether or not he was aware, or had taken steps to manage the disease is really the issue we need to be discussing.
Do we Ghanaians seek medical attention for our ailments or we are more likely to self-diagnose and pick up a drug from the counter of a pharmacy or default to a prayer service? That is a topic for another day!!!
But how do we take care of ourselves as a country? How does one discuss the poor state of our healthcare without sounding or risking being branded a political enemy?
What do employers of persons in such demanding jobs do to protect the health of their employees? After all, hazardous jobs like construction and mining require workers to wear appropriate gear like protective helmets, boots, masks, suits etc. so surely the labour laws of Ghana should be requiring employers of stressful, time consuming jobs to provide the right environment and gear for their staff.
Twenty years ago our staple food like kenkey and fish, waakye, ampesi, fufu with bush meat or some kind of lean meat was just enough to satisfy the Ghanaian palate. Those were the days when diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, stoke etc. were associated with old age. Cancer was alien to us and very much associated with our European cousins. Now imported chicken, burgers, pizza, french fries and highly concentrated mono sodium glutamate spaghetti commonly known as ‘Indomie’ are so rampant and affordable that they have easily replaced some of the traditionally healthier meals on our dinner tables.
The combination of the Ghanaian penchant for these unhealthy foods and our very low standards of food monitoring and regulation is recipe for disaster. After all, the regulatory agency tasked to do the due diligence and monitoring to ensure that food imports and distribution are assessed rigorously is woefully understaffed and institutionally corrupt!
We are drinking herbal concoctions that are parading our markets and media outlets promising energy, healing, fun and all kinds of quick fixes without going through the mill. The absence of an effective food and drug standards board has resulted in multibillion cedi businesses competing vigorously for our patronage but virtually untouchable. So as citizens of this country, we have no defence, no cover, no awareness, no guidelines, no protection against any food or drug coming through our ports and borders practically exposing and condemning us to these threatening diseases that remain at our door steps with no guarantees for effective treatment. We do not even know for certain whether the drugs that are available at our hospitals, pharmacies and herbal shops are effective, fake or have any side effects that rather stimulate these diseases.
Our health care system is facing total collapse with our National Health Insurance service (NHIS) practically on its knees. Our graduate nurses are sitting at home unemployed whilst the new government figures out how to absorb them; meanwhile this country for the last decade has consistently operated far below World Health Organisation’s (WHO) stipulations for medical staff to population ratio.
So KABA who was exposed to such a hazardous job for long hours, sitting in one place with little or no exercise was always at risk of losing his life and there are many more people facing the same plight in varying professions across the country.
I suggest that we should seriously look at pushing for legislation that would force employers of stressful and highly demanding jobs with long hours to provide compulsory exercise breaks for staff. This would require time away from their desk and introduction of fitness coaches and occupational therapists to provide employees with profound advice on the risks associated to their work and how to maintain their health. At the end of the day, the most important thing to any serious organisation would be to keep their best staff alive, healthy and performing at optimum levels. KABA didn’t get that opportunity!
In Europe many of such jobs would not allow for employees to sit down for several hours, let alone have lunch breaks at their desks. Employers make sure that the whole environment in which they work is humane and health boosting. Eateries with specialist chefs provide healthy meals with fruits and they are either free or highly subsidised. Imagine such work places providing hour breaks for staff to do exercises led by fitness coaches after which they shower and get back to work? This is the kind of atmosphere employees of such pressure jobs where they spend most of their day should be accorded. It is only reasonable for some of the huge monies earned by these employers to find its way back to cater for the well-being of their staff.
We need to bring healthcare and healthy living to the top of the agenda and eschew the sensationalism that has become the bane of our society. All these focusing on witchcraft are mere distractions that does nothing to one’s well-being.
As things stand, the threat is still out there and if we do not address the root cause of this canker, I am afraid there will be many more of such work and lifestyle related deaths visited on our most vibrant work force.
I believe that the bringing to light of the plight of hardworking professionals in demanding jobs to light in order to force a changes attitude and legislation to protect vulnerable employees would be a befitting ‘requiem’ for our fallen hero KABA.
May God help us all.
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