The quest to secure a better health status for citizens would be a mirage if pragmatic measures to foster behavioural change among the populace were not put in place, Dr Joseph Nuertey, Cape Coast Metro Director of Health Services, has said.
"Behavioural Change is very important if the nation would make a headway in its health status," he emphasized, adding that, it was important for the public to drastically change for the better because bad behaviour affect every aspect of life.
Dr. Nuertey was opening an advocacy workshop on Behavioral Change for traditional rulers, opinion and religious leaders, health personnel, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders from the Metropolis, at its capital on Wednesday.
It forms part of the Ministry of Health's Behaviour Change Support Project (BCSP) being carried out in three regions: Greater Accra, Western and Central.
It seeks to create a platform for the participants to share ideas and map out strategies to facilitate behavioural change to ensure better health for all.
The BCSP is being facilitated by the Johns Hopkins University of Communication Studies, with support from CARE and Plan International, to help attain some specific health related MDGs such as Maternal and Child Health, combating HIV/AIDS, and Family Planning.
Dr. Nuertey described as "unacceptable" reported cases of malnutrition among babies as young as six months, saying, the directorate's report revealed that some mothers had refused to breastfeed their babies 'to prevent their breasts from sagging.'
He pointed out that breastfeeding was not related to the sagging of breasts, explaining that the breasts would naturally "fall' at a stage and advised mothers to breastfeed their babies to improve their health and ensure a good future for them.
On Family Planning, the Health Director expressed regret that "people just don't want to plan, in our part of the world" and urged couples to systematically plan their lives for their own comfort and that of their children.
He said even though the HIV/AIDS cases seemed to be on the decline in the region, much needed to be done to further reduce the incidents of new cases which stood at 45 in 2008 and 126 in 2009.
Giving the health profile of the Metropolis, Ms Cynthia Asamoah, the Metropolitan Health Information Officer, said the area which has a total population of 142,398 with an annual growth rate of 2.8 per cent, was still grappling with high rates of malarial deaths and infant mortality.
She revealed that of the 82,628 cases of malaria reported at its facilities in 2008, 156 people died of the disease, but the number reduced in 2009 with 122 deaths out of the 117,000 cases.
Ms Asamoah said 53 out of 13,599 children who were taken to the health facilities died in 2008 while in 2009, 40 of the 19,593 children lost their lives.
The Health Information Officer said during the same period the reported cases of HIV/AIDS were 483 and 549 in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
She said to enhance accessibility to all communities, the metro directorate, would among others, open four additional Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds at Akotokyir, Mpeasem, Kwaprow and Ebubonko.
A clinic will also be opened at the Kotokoruba market this year.
Ms Mercy Kwafoa, Regional Coordinator of the BCSP for Western, Central and Greater Accra, said the project seeks to build the capacity of stakeholders to help ensure reduction in neo-natal and maternal deaths, support key interventions in malaria and TB controls.
It will also promote simple practices like hand washing with soap to prevent infections and communicable diseases, ensure good water and sanitation practices through its behavioural change communication approach.
Mr Seth Frimpong Mensah, Central Regional Manager of the Project, noted that since malaria is the cause of many deaths reported at health facilities, there was, therefore, the need for all communities to strategize and identify social norms that are impediments in accessing quality health care.
He urged mothers to promptly send their sick children to the hospital and not to resort to self medication.