Mrs Lordina Mahama, First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, on Saturday, urged the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to recognize auto-immunity as deserving serious attention in the healthcare delivery system.
She said: “I want to remind the NHIA that this is the time to place it under the National Health Insurance Scheme. This is because auto-immunity is very expensive to treat and being on the scheme will take the current burden off many parents and patients.”
Mrs Mahama said this at the fifth anniversary of ShareCare4U, a support group that aims at creating awareness on auto-immune and neurological disorders.
The First Lady, who said she had been associated with Sharecare Ghana for a number of years, also committed to lending her support to on-going discussions between Noguchi Institute and the National Health Insurance Authority.
Professor Margaret Armar-Klemesu of the Noguchi Institute, who shared some findings from an exploratory study into autoimmune diseases, said the disease occurred because of defects in the immune system resulting in the body attacking its own self which could cause serious damage to the cells, tissues and organs.
She dispelled the notion that autoimmune diseases were rare among Africans, saying that was a myth.
Sharing excerpts from the on-going research, Prof. Armar-Klemesu quoted Dr Joan Agama, a Physician c-investigator from the Korle-bu Teaching Hospital as saying: “As a practitioner who sees cases on a daily basis... the disease situation is a cause of worry to practitioners in that, a lot of referrals are being made.”
She said the disease might be on the increase because about 12-15 cases were seen on a weekly basis with at least one or two new cases being registered at the hospital every week.
Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection also pledged her support and expressed readiness to be part of the research.
She also said the Ministry would engage the NHIA to advocate the inclusion of autoimmune diseases in the scheme.
Nana Yaa Agyeman, Founder of Sharecare, said the organization had turned attention to children with neurological conditions.
A register compiled by Sharecare unearthed several children with undiagnosed neurological conditions, some of whom were being hidden by their families because of stigmatization by society.
She said Sharecare had adopted Osu Alata, an area which is deprived, but with a high percentage of children with neurological conditions.
Nana Yaa noted that it appeared some districts were not following the guidelines of the National Council on persons with disabilities, and some were misusing the money or delaying in payments.
She said people with disabilities would like separate accounts to be opened for them.
Nana Yaa urged people with autoimmune and neurological conditions in other parts of the country to start support groups and register with Sharecare as regional branches.
Dr Albert Akpalu of the Korle bu Teaching Hospital, called on medical practitioners to look out for early warning signs, stressing that early diagnosis would also facilitate early treatment.
Dr Doris Obodai-Sai, who chaired the programme, called for training of professional caregivers, explaining that having children with such conditions could be very stressful.
She urged Ghanaians to avoid discriminating against such people, and accept them as part of society.