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Focus on CHPS, a major tool for improving healthcare delivery in Ghana

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Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) is a national strategy to deliver essential community-based health services involving health planning and service delivery within communities. It was tailored with a primary aim of improving quality healthcare delivery in communities in deprived districts.

The general principles upon which CHPS is embedded include community participation, empowerment, ownership, gender consideration and volunteerism, focus on community health needs, task-shifting to achieve universal access to health, communities as social and human capital for health system development and delivery. CHPS began as a community health and family planning facility project which was being emulated from what was being practiced in Bangladesh. It began on Navrongo and has gone on to be implemented in every region of Ghana.

Ghana has over the years invested in health infrastructure. This has mainly being in the field of construction of cutting-edge facilities with the aim that these facilities will incite an influx of people who seek medical attention. This has not been the case though. Maternal mortality, child mortality and morbidity rates remain extremely high and unpleasant and hold nothing to write home about for a middle income country like ours.

Most often, there is little or no community participation in health decision making in the country when this should not be the case because the primary patrons of healthcare in the country are individuals within various households. Mothers form a majority of these individuals as they often take the first key decision of seeking medical attention when the need arises. The decision to seek healthcare and the type of healthcare sought usually depends on the information available to the household.

A major policy statement by the ministry of health in 1977 asserted that most health problems that result in death in Ghana are preventable and curable if diagnosed promptly by basic healthcare procedures. If this assertion holds any water then the government needs to prioritize construction of CHPS compounds in every community instead of financing the construction of white elephant health facilities. It should also look at the deployment of health personnel from hospital-based services to community-oriented services.

This is an option that cannot be overlooked because we cannot learn to run without first learning how to walk. We need health facilities to foster quality healthcare delivery but our target should be more on the grassroots. A functional CHPS will promptly identify and diagnose most disease problems via basic diagnostic procedures.

CHPS is vital to the provision of a socially cohesive system in which families function to increase the number of cases that are reported to healthcare centres. It is necessary for the provision of primary healthcare and education to households in a way that is acceptable and convenient. A functional CHPS should be able to reduce health inequalities and promote equity in healthcare delivery by removing geographic barriers of healthcare. A functional CHPS is an appropriate way to deliver healthcare to communities in undeveloped and deprived areas that are distant from health facilities.

A functional CHPS should be able to operate on the principles of primary healthcare that leads to improvement in child health and the perception of reproduction, male involvement in family planning and children developing immunity to infectious disease.

All in all, CHPS is pivotal to healthcare delivery in Ghana and should be a major area of government investment. As a nation our health is our wealth. There is the need therefore to channel our resources into initiatives that bring about betterment of our health to all and sundry. It is therefore not a surprise that some past governments donated percentages of their salaries to enable CHPS to function effectively. To progress as a nation, there is the need to invest in developing quality healthcare delivery systems and CHPS is the best way to begin.

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