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General News Mon, 19 Jun 2006

International health researchers meet in Accra

Accra, June 19, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Monday advocated the tapping of the expertise of herbal practitioners in the search for a cure for endemic diseases that had defied scientific analysis.

This he said was necessary to stem the tide of people resorting to the spiritual realm or alternate medicine as panacea for their various ailments.

Vice President Alhaji Mahama was speaking at a meeting of the Joint Coordinating Board (JCB) of United Nations Education Fund; United Nations Development Programme, World Health Organisation and the World Bank Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. The three-day meeting is the High Level Ministerial meeting and the first of the JCB to be held in Africa to develop improved tools for the control of tropical diseases and strengthening of research in endemic countries.

Vice President Alhaji Mahama said many diseases affecting developing countries in general were due to lack of effective diagnosis, treatment options and preventive interventions. "When some of the existing limited tools and interventions have been developed, weak health systems, undermined by shortage of human resources fail to identify how to best utilise and effectively deliver them," he said.

He said some of the underlying factors responsible for these were the low priority given to health research, coupled with the value of research outcomes and poor funding.

Vice President Alhaji Mahama stressed: "Studies have established that poor health outcomes impede economic well-being and economic development.

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"The heavy burden of disease and its multiple effects on productivity, demography and education are partly responsible for Africa's chronic poor economic performance."

Vice President Alhaji Mahama said health research had been immensely beneficial for human well-being as witnessed by contributions made towards reducing ill health, extending lifespan and improving the quality of life for people in many countries in the last century. He noted that many of the lower income countries and especially the poor and the marginalised people in the world, had benefited less from the products of health research, due to the failure to utilize knowledge or to deliver products that were already available.

Shifting his focus to the delegates, Vice President Alhaji Mahama asked them to remain committed to their deliberations on their 10-year vision and strategy.

The JCB would among other things review and decide upon the planning and execution of the Special Programme and approve the budget for implementation.

Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, said it was time for research scientists, especially those in the developing countries, to uphold the ethics of their profession and to prove their intellectual capacity and honesty by shunning or endorsing conflicting research findings that tended to confuse the public.

He said promotion of health research should remain a core function of the lead agency for international health cooperation such as the WHO. He noted that Health Ministers, who attended the meeting, had agreed to work together and avoid unnecessary competition, duplication and lack of coordination in the fight against common diseases. "We as developing countries recognised that the major burden on our health institutions is still characterised by the need to control infections and infestations while making room for merging diseases usually associated with affluent countries.

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"Weak health systems, inadequate qualified professionals and paucity of health research and funding makes it necessary for us to present a unified front in search for rapid and effective ways of improving the health of our people", he said.

Major Quashigah stressed the need to increase Africa's presence on the JCB because of the numerous health problems, adding that Ghana had applied to be a full member of the Board.

The JCB meeting was preceded by a meeting of Health Ministers from Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America in Accra last week. They deliberated on the translation of research to health policy and systems development.

The meeting reached a consensus that research was central to efforts to mitigate the challenges that limited the capabilities of member countries to achieve and sustain regional and global health targets.

Source: GNA