24
Mon, Sep

kwame asiedu

  • A Barrier or Opportunity in Health Access Improvement?

    A Barrier or Opportunity in Health Access Improvement? Image credit - Ted Eytan
    On a webinar this week about health policy in the developing world, I was asked what I envisaged healthcare in Ghana will look like in 15-20 years. I was initially pensive...

    James Allen in As a Man Thinketh argues, “A strong man cannot help a weaker unless the weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition.”

  • A CHARGE TO KEEP; IN CONFLICT WITH UNRULY PARTISANS

    Kwadwo Bamba, alleged leader and organizer of the 'Delta Force' that stormed the offices of the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinator.

    “The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one sided, but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general, it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion and criticism is worth defending.” James E. Talmage

  • A CHARGE TO KEEP; REVOLUTIONISING THE DELIVERY OF PHARMACEUTICAL CARE

    A CHARGE TO KEEP; REVOLUTIONISING THE DELIVERY OF PHARMACEUTICAL CARE. Image - Linkedin

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips in Breathing Room argues, “I finally figured out that not every crisis can be managed. As much as we want to keep ourselves safe, we can't protect ourselves from everything. If we want to embrace life, we also have to embrace chaos.”

  • A CONCLAVE OF WITCHES AND WIZARDS. THE PUTRID MIX OF KARMA AND SORCERY

    A CONCLAVE OF WITCHES AND WIZARDS. THE PUTRID MIX OF KARMA AND SORCERY

    Written By Kwame Asiedu - F. Hodge in FROM WITHIN I RISE opines, “Manipulation, fueled with good intent, can be a blessing. But when used wickedly, it is the beginning of a magician's karmic calamity.” Yes some say karma is a bag dog, others rather in derogatory fashion term it as a bitch. Truth is whichever way one looks karma is real. A combination of karma and sorcery however leaves a bland taste and a putrid smell. Yesterday was one such day when it seems all the sorcerers came to town. Considering that, your average witch is not, by nature, a social animal as far as other witches are concerned and in witchcraft’ there's a conflict of dominant personalities; there was definitely a reason for this august assembly.

    In the end a bloodbath was avoided in my view only just. The writing was always on the wall, but sadly like anything Ghanaian it was ignored. By 8am they were at each other’s throats in many places, allegations of violence turned into factual reports. From Ejura to Ningo Prampram it was as though a win on the day was a guarantee that one would, come 2017, be at the table when the spoils of our national cake is shared. Even in areas where the results of 2016’s parliamentary elections are all but a forgone conclusion and a win for the opposition NPP is cast in stone, they didn’t disappoint. Suame in the Ashanti Region was a marker of how madness runs through our politics like bile runs through our liver.

    Accusations and lies were flying all over the place. In Ningo Prampram, Sam George alleged that he couldn’t trace his name in the register of voters and demanded that the election be rescheduled and a new register compiled. Sadly it turned out later that a certain George Samuel Nartey with a build similar to Gyata’s was actually on the voters list. Some have argued he went looking for the wrong name, others like E.T. Mensah have claimed that he is a pathological liar. In the end however he had his way and the elections were called off. Irate foot soldiers however wanted the last word and assault became their route; poor George had a black eye by the time the chips had all fallen into place.

    By this time I was wondering when 5pm will come, the commotion was too much and the hysteria that had greeted it made it even more putrid. In all that I paused to think and only one word came to mind “hypocrisy.” I found the call for a new voters register by Sam George the height of hypocrisy. I did because in the aftermath of the LET MY VOTE COUNT demonstrations, he was vociferous in his view that Ghana didn’t need a new voters register and that a clean-up of the current register was all that was required. Ironically he had forgotten that the inclusion and or deletion of about 3000 names as he claimed could also have been resolved by a simple clean up. In total disregard for the adage, “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” he wanted a new register. The effrontery with which he hypocritically pursued this agenda was palpable to say the least.

    On the contrary Ezenator Rawlings had met a similar faith. The witches of Korle Klottey had through some vicious form of sorcery managed to delete her name from the register of voters. Her conduct was admirable as she didn’t try to torpedo the process. However the situation raises a number of questions. Is Ezenator a member of the NDC? If she is, why was her name missing? Considering that the NDC constitution makes it mandatory for all parliamentary aspirants to be on the national voters register and the party register, was Dr Rawlings treated specially? End of the day she won but in my view we probably haven’t heard the last of this tale.

    By 7pm it was clear that in many constituencies the daggers had been drawn. In typical cloak and dagger fashion, incumbent MP’s were falling as though a machine gun had been let loose at a firing range. By night fall there was blood all over the floor. The likes of Alfred Agbesi, sports minister Mustapha Ahmed, Adenta MP and ex-convict Ashie-Moore, Nii Armah Ashietey etc. were all casualties. Indeed defeat in politics can be bitter.

    To the defeated incumbents I console you with the words of Denis Waitley; “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

    With this in mind I pray you learn from the wounds of this defeat, most of you had become so detached from your constituencies; exhibiting an air of importance and putting on the height of all pomposity. Mr Voter was patiently watching and knew he would have his say. Some of you are waking up today asking, where did I go wrong? The answer to this question to me would be the beginning of your rehabilitation. Yes we would poke fun at you and rightly so. At the end of the day you would learn two things; firstly that the thumb that put you there is the same thumb that would get rid of you and that four years is actually not that long in a human being’s life.

    I will part by reminding you all that in witchcraft, there's always a group of ringleaders without a ring and that the basic unwritten rule of witchcraft, is don't do what you will, do what I say. Many in the NDC would from now know that in sorcery, the natural size of a coven is one and that witches only get together when they can't avoid it.” The likes of Bagbin aren’t going anywhere soon; they know the game and also the rules. Witchcraft or not they always prevail in their closet is only one book and the writings are in blood, every page reads the same “IN THE WORLD OF WITCHCRAFT EVERY ONE IS EQUAL, HE WHO JUMPS THE QUEUE DIES FIRST.” The babies with sharp teeth and the wannabe Mugabe’s better learn quickly.

     

    Village Drunkard

     

  • A CURE FOR ALL THINGS UNDER THE SUN

    File - The Usnea lichen plant


    Written By Kwame Asiedu - Most early medicines originated from plants. Stephen Harrod Buhner once wrote, “Fifteen years ago I had an odd dream. In it, a medicinal plant that I was interested in, an Usnea lichen that is ubiquitous on trees throughout the world, told me that while it was good for healing human lungs it was primarily a medicine for the lungs of the planet, the trees. When I awoke, I was amazed. It had never occurred to me in quite that way that plants have some life and purpose outside their use to human beings.”

    Traditionally most societies can boast of a plant or two with deep rooted medicinal value, in recent times, thanks to the science of pharmaceutical chemistry (that has allowed the active components of these plants often to be extracted) and pharmacology (that has allowed the actions of these components to be studied) orthodox medicines have resulted. Drugs like Artemisinin from the plant Artemisia annua, Quinine first isolated in 1820 from the bark of the cinchona tree etc. Extracts from cinchona bark have been used to treat malaria since at least 1632. In Ghana, an alkaloid extract (cryptolepine) from species of the flowering plant Cryptolepis sanguinolenta has been researched on and extensively shown to be a potent antimalarial.

    In recent times, thanks to this, many herbal remedies have appeared on our local market for the treatment of diseases ranging from infectious, communicable to chronic. Sadly, these herbal products are advertised and peddled with alacrity and in flagrant violation of the laws of the land. From a scientific stand point diseases can be broadly split into two categories; those that are caused because an intruder (bacteria, fungi, virus etc.) invaded the comfort of the human body i.e. an infection, or caused by a malfunction of a component of the body (hypertension, diabetes, angina, glaucoma, some cancers etc.).

    In practice many diseases caused by an intruder can often be cured. Thus people are known to contract malaria, take their medicines appropriately and get cured. Same can be said for bacterial chest infections, leishmaniosis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis just to name a few. Truth is due to the humid climate, lack of personal hygiene and poor sanitation etc. many of these infectious diseases are found in sub-Saharan African countries of which Ghana is one. Thus our medical mind-set has been one that defaults to every disease on planet earth having a cure. For most parts of our history this view couldn’t have been far from wrong as thanks to low life expectancy, many died from infectious diseases well before they could be afflicted by any chronic disease.

    The second broad classification of diseases i.e. the chronic diseases are managed and not cured. They are often a result of a malfunction of an organ e.g. the heart. With chronic diseases the only option currently available is management using medicines. Often medicines prescribed for such diseases are dispensed with a warning. “Do not stop taking this medication unless with your doctors’ advice.” Increasingly these are the diseases many herbalists in Ghana claim they can cure with one herbal concoction or the other. Apart from their claims defying medical logic, it can also be said to be outright criminal. Many are known to have lost their life thanks to the over reliance on some of these spurious claims. In any serious jurisdiction, such deaths would have possibly fallen under the domain of manslaughter or culpable homicide. Clearly these drug peddlers play on ignorance and poverty, causing damage that is irreversible by the time it arrives at the door of many hospitals.

    It is not uncommon to find one herbal product being touted to cure all things chronic from hypertension through diabetes to sexual weakness. How this can happen when the epidemiology of these conditions are often unrelated is an issue beyond the scope of my little brain. In recent times the sexual weakness area seems to be the most lucrative. Products that are peddled range from alcoholic beverages to tree barks and roots. The irony is that often sexual malfunction in men could be the first sign of an underlying chronic disease, worsening of an existing one or even a side-effect from medication prescribed to manage an existing condition. In women on the other hand data suggest decreased libido could be a sign of depression, be menopausal or like in men the first sign of an underlying condition.

    In reality herbal medicines can be extremely lethal. In 2010 Professor Roger Byard publishing in the US-based Journal of Forensic Sciences outlined the highly toxic nature of many herbal substances, which a large percentage of users around the world mistakenly believe are safe. He argued that, "there's a false perception that herbal remedies are safer than manufactured medicines, when in fact many contain potentially lethal concentrations of arsenic, mercury and lead. These substances may cause serious illnesses, exacerbate pre-existing health problems or result in death, particularly if taken in excess." This view is supported by many researchers including some from Ghana. Often the doses of these are empirically rather than scientifically determined and are peddled with no cognisance of any pre-existing conditions or medication. Proof is the increased spate of reported deaths of many males whilst at it with the opposite sex. Research proves that the optimum time for actual coitus is 12-16 minutes but many of these remedies claim to prolong this and hasten ones’ journey to the grave. Even more worrying in recent times and further complicating the situation, is the proliferation of Chinese herbal remedies of all sorts. A well-known herbal medicine Chan Su, used to treat sore throats, boils and heart palpitations, contains the venomous secretions of Chinese toads, which can cause cardiac arrests or even comas. Yet it is freely available with absolutely no regulation.

    Many have questioned how this practice has gone unchecked to date. On paper herbal medicine practice is well regulated in Ghana. There is a Traditional Medicine Practice Act, 2000 that stipulates amongst other things: what constitutes a traditional or herbal medicine and how they should be handled. The Food and Drugs Authority is also mandated to register these medicines and to provide guidance as to their advertisement. However, like many things Ghanaian, these laws are treated as mere suggestions. The statutory body mandated to enforce them lacks the capacity, leadership and will to achieve this mandate; whilst the citizens watch on as these quacks kill them off one after the other.

    The proliferation of radio and televisions stations has also complicated the situation. Many of these stations lack the requisite expertise to vert adverts that are brought to them. They consequentially take the word of these quacks that their products are duly registered and that they are also authorised to advertise. Once these adverts start airing the gullible public then assume these products are authentic.

    I will conclude by saying as with all our problems, this menace can only be eliminated with proper leadership of our drug regulatory framework. It is one that needs a leader with real steel balls willing to confront entrenched peddlers who will throw everything including threats of voting against the government of the day. This is the reason why I have often argued that appointments to institutions of national interest should be devoid of the political executive and be strictly based on competence.

  • A CURSE OF BLINDNESS OR A GENETIC HISTORICAL FACT?

    A CURSE OF BLINDNESS OR A GENETIC HISTORICAL FACT?

     

    Written By Kwame Asiedu - “I wish I’d paid better attention. I didn’t yet think of time as finite. I didn’t fully appreciate the stories she told me until I became an adult, and by then I had to make do with snippets pasted together, a film projected on the back of my mind. This land has brought forth numerous children, favouring both the bad and the good ones. It is not the land that is responsible for the people’s hardships, it is the people themselves.”

    I clearly remember my paternal great grandmother Awo. My earliest memories were of a frail blind lady who was very tough. I also remember his brother, Wofa Aboagye; a prominent cocoa farmer who also became blind. Both were in adjacent houses in my patrilineal village Abrankese, Sweduro in the Bosumtwi District of the Ashanti region. My dad used to take us to the village where his farms were and oral tradition had it that, people from my patrilineal home were extremely intelligent but always went blind in their old age. In those days, this was a red flag to any bull when it came to marriage. Our home had been cursed with blindness or at least that was the belief. Only families with a warped mentality would risk a marriage that lead to certain blindness.

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    Awo seemed to be playing hide and seek with death and so did his brother. Consequentially, their blindness seemed to last forever. To make matters worse, my paternal grandmother Adwoa Nyerese used to remind us that, we needed to be empathetic with those two for we were all going to go blind before we died anyway. I normally brushed her off thinking how could an illiterate old woman predict the future? The cynic in me obviously was exposed once my umbilical cord was cut. Some even thought she was bewitched and perhaps was responsible for the certain blindness that awaited us all or even could have been responsible for her mother and uncle’s blindness. At least that is how the superstitious mind worked and continues to work today. Nothing in our lives happens without the hand of the evil unknown.

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    However, thanks to oral tradition, my grandmother reminded us that long before these two, previous family patriarchs had also gone blind too. That still failed to make me but a lid. Where was her evidence after all? Surely this was a hallucinating old woman aiming to scare me into empathy.

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    Eventually, Adwoa Nyerese also went blind and so did her sister who I was named after Nana Sarpongmaa. Any effort to get any of them to get their eyes checked prior to these episodes was futile, to them there was nothing wrong with their eyes and “whatever will be will be.” However, just before they lost their sight, they succumbed to family pressure and saw an ophthalmologist. That was the first I heard of the word “Glaucoma.” Even then I took little notice, after all, it was a disease reserved for old age pensioners.

    However, in 1995, whilst convalescing in my Uncle James Pyne’s home somewhere in Kent, I was visited by my dad. Dr Albert Ofosu-Asiedu was on his way to present a scientific paper at a conference of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) in the United States, an organisation for which he was President. Whilst reading his paper he realised he had temporarily lost his sight in one eye. He paused for a minute, readjusted his vision and managed to finish his delivery with the aid of one eye. On his return to London, his brother-in-law insisted that he got himself checked. At the Moorfields Eye Hospital, he was diagnosed with advanced glaucoma. Suddenly the penny dropped, our family was not cursed with blindness but carried a gene that predisposed us to glaucoma. Now it all made sense, the oral tradition should have been documented and followed up scientifically. My grandmother wasn’t bewitched; neither was she hallucinating. She had only through oral tradition picked up on a medical historic fact. Indeed, the family had issues with our sight but it had more to do with genetics than sorcery.

    Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma this is sign-less and symptomless with less common types including closed-angle glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly over time and there is no pain. Peripheral vision may begin to decrease followed by central vision resulting in blindness if not treated.

    Glaucoma, has been identified as one of the major causes of needless blindness especially in blacks. Truth is, glaucoma is quite prevalent in Ghana. In 2015, it was reported that Ghana topped glaucoma cases globally. Then it was claimed that 700,000 Ghanaians are currently living with glaucoma. The real travesty is the fact that another study published in Nature (www.nature.com) by C. T. Ntim-Amponsah et al indicated that 94% of people diagnosed with glaucoma had no idea they were living with the disease. Many of those diagnosed had oral history that indicated blindness in their extended family.

    Studies from the United States indicate that, “glaucoma occurs about five times more often in African Americans. Blindness from glaucoma is about six times more common. In addition to this higher frequency, glaucoma often occurs earlier in life in African Americans, on average, about 10 years earlier than in other ethnic populations. Further research shows that Africans are genetically more at risk to glaucoma, making early detection and treatment even more important. In studies, such as the Baltimore Eye Survey and the Barbados Eye Study, researchers have investigated how glaucoma affects different black populations. Based on the above, it is recommended that Africans get a thorough check for glaucoma every one to two years after age 35.” Sadly, even with early diagnosis and treatment, 10% of patients go blind.

    Again, the only antidote to certain blindness if you are predisposed is to have a check regularly. I wonder how many who have read to this point, have had their eyes checked in the last ten years? The time has come for us to take some of these silent diseases that can deal a heavy blow to our quality of life, especially in our old age very seriously. Unfortunately, vision is one of those senses that man must not play Russian roulette with. To make matters worse, diabetes, hypertension (two diseases that are woefully underdiagnosed in Ghana), bleaching and prolonged steroid use are predisposing factors to the early onset of glaucoma. Also worrying is secondary glaucoma due to the use of herbal eye preparations.

     

    Thanks to late diagnosis, today my dad Dr. Albert Ofosu-Asiedu is partially sighted even though over the last two decades, he has judiciously managed his glaucoma. Truth is, he wasn’t bewitched by Awo or Adwoa Nyerese. He only succumbed to the supposed family curse because we as a people have failed to scientifically follow up on our oral tradition, preferring to leave it in the hands of the mystique. Today I check my eyes regularly and monitor my intra ocular pressure like a hawk. Having been a living testimony to almost five decades of entirely avoidable blindness, I have made it a point that I wouldn’t be part of the supposed statistical curse. Therefore, I share our story; my patrilineal family is not the exception in this silent health risk. We are part of a norm that as a society we have failed to address. One that has lead us to the top of this diseases league table worldwide. For me, these were my bedtime stories. Tales that haunted my grandparents and parents making them laugh at the same time. I never understood them until perhaps I was fully grown and they became our sole inheritance. An inheritance I reluctantly but needlingly choose to share today.

  • A DESERTION OF COMMON SENSE; WHEN KNOWLEDGE AND INTELLECT ARE NOT IN SYNC

    A DESERTION OF COMMON SENSE; WHEN KNOWLEDGE AND INTELLECT ARE NOT IN SYNC


    Written By Kwame Asiedu - Isaac Asimov, in I, Robot opines, “It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say 'It's as plain as the nose on your face.' But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”

    As a Santaclausian, one of the school rules I can never forget is, “Boys should exercise common sense at all times. A breach of common sense is a breach of school rules.” This rule was all encompassing and epitomized the requirement to be circumspect in one’s dealings with students and staff. To be on the right side of this rule, it was important that empathy and attention to the feelings of the larger Santaclausian family was always at the forefront of choices and behaviours.

    Suffice to say, all of us were being educated in an institution of excellence to uphold these attitudes when the world was at our feet. I have found out that this rule is common in many schools that friends of mine attended locally. I was therefore taken aback when Daniel Vroom, a Santaclusian of no mean standing posed this question; “does knowledge and intellect reside at the same place?” This was after I had opined that, “the notion of the NDC being intellectually bankrupt was a misnomer since many of us were in the same secondary schools and universities both locally and internationally with many leading members.

    Consequentially, I began reviewing my writings and that of many centrist commentators on social media over the last four years. In them, I found to my amazement a trove of information that was disregarded under the guise of “hate can’t win” by the governing NDC. I concluded that in retrospect the NDC may just find out that they dug their own graves awaiting their mass execution. In fact, many of these commentators did the government so many favours and could have made the path to victory of the NPP more tedious had the government just listened.

    Rather, those in charge of the executive sought to bury their heads in the sand playing to the gallery and appealing to their core vote in a manner that bred apathy and disdain amongst their partisans and energized the core of their opponents. They had forgotten that, a key requirement for a government that governs for the good of the entire nation is intellect and that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” This was when I realized that knowledge was perhaps in abundance but intellect and astuteness seemed to have deserted the thinkers in the NDC. In fact, I had begun moving towards a view that the interface between knowledge and intellect was common sense and a listening ear without which baloney became the order of the day.

    To convince myself that my postulation was plausible, I began looking at the behaviours, decisions and machinations of the President John Dramani Mahama. I did because, there is a proverb that, “every fish rots from the head down.” This is poignant because, a rotten knowledgeable brain would lack the intellectual ability to make a common-sense decision. This was made manifest many times by the decisions of His Excellency. His tendency to move ministers accused of maleficence to the seat of government was repugnant to say the least. It was as though he had been deceived by a deranged statistician that all he needed to do to retain power was the core partisan NDC vote. He was totally mindless of the fact that the road to the Flagstaff House was not through Ketu South in the Volta Region or Bantama in the Ashanti Region but through the costal belts of the Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions plus the Guan speaking constituencies of the Brong Ahafo Region. Sadly, these were constituencies that the NDC had won in the past, but thanks to a lack of intellectual astuteness conceded them all in a rather meek and spineless fashion.

    Then there were the unbridled attacks on the intelligence of many middle-class thinkers with extremely partisan decisions that smacked in the face of the integrity of institutions of state. This started with the government’s shenanigans in the Woyome judgement debt saga and the pussyfooting of the Attorney General. It was as though an assault on Woyome was an assault on the NDC voter. Intelligence was thrown to the dogs and the government in certain instances became antagonistic to the overwhelming will of the people to support Martin Amidu. Yes, they had many knowledgeable people but strangely, they had conspired in a weird way to ensure knowledge and intellect were not in sync.

    Then there was the Montie III saga. Even the most infantile brain knew freeing people who had spewed vile expletives and threatened judges was an assault on the judiciary. The only arbiter entrusted by our constitution to settle all things. Yet, under the guise of pressure from the partisan grassroots and with many ministers of the executive sheepishly marching to sign a petition requesting for a Presidential pardon, The President acceded to the madness of the minority. By this time, knowledge and intellect were poles apart. The silent majority on the other hand were busy looking for their voter ID cards, proxying their votes and rubbing their thumbs.

    As if that wasn’t enough, the commentary from those who spoke on behalf of government became nauseating by the day. It was as though the president had gone on a suicide mission replacing his Babies With Sharp Teeth (BWST) with others with an acid tongue and acrid smell. They regurgitated lies as if they were remote controlled parrots, deceiving their foot soldiers in the process and allegedly pocketing the campaign funds. It was as though they felt shouting on air and being disruptive was the panacea to torpedoing the message of the main opposition and now government elect. Whilst the NPP used their knowledgeable men to push their message and to energize their campaign base, these acolytes of the President were busily lining their pockets and in the process lining their graves.

    Daniel in conclusion, I would argue that the path to victory and success requires knowledge and intelligence to reside in the same place. The minute intellect deviates from knowledge the writings of failure are boldly on the wall. In my research, I came across this quote that sums up what I now believe, “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

    Clearly the NPP by making sure knowledge and intellect were in sync ensured that the graves the NDC dug up came to good use. What the NDC should do is to soul search the hearts of their thinkers and jettison many who have become poisonous to their brand. By so doing, they may one day sink their knowledge base with their intellect and begin to understand why I advised them ages ago to set up a “Department of Common Sense.”

  • A Drunken Attempt At Arresting The Malaise And Comedy That Dominates Our Social Discourse

    A Drunken Attempt At Arresting The Malaise And Comedy That Dominates Our Social Discourse

    “Evil isn’t the real threat to the world. Stupidity is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it’s a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupidity. That might actually make a difference.” Jim Butcher in Vignette

  • A FAILURE OF PHARMACEUTICAL CARE; A NATION ON SUICIDE WATCH

    A failure of pharmaceutical care; a nation on suicide watch

    As a young student pharmacist, I fell in love with this classical definition of drugs and poisons, “a drug is a poison at low concentrations and a poison is a drug at high concentrations.” That every drug even the most innocuous is a potential killer is a known fact. I have over the years observed how our country has fallen in love with all manner of legal medicines and the ease with which these medicines can be obtained.

  • A letter to the NHIS on moving towards financial security, exploiting generic drug pricing, and digitization – Part 1

    A letter to the NHIS on moving towards financial security, exploiting generic drug pricing, and digitization – Part 1

    Dear NHIS,

    You cannot continue to have a high budget for medicines whilst trying to clear your historic debt. No insurance scheme has survived with a recurrent drug budget of more than 28%. To continue that way means you have little of your capital inflows to invest and nothing left to clear your debt.

  • A letter to the NHIS on moving towards financial security, exploiting generic drug pricing, and digitization – Part 2

    A letter to the NHIS on moving towards financial security, exploiting generic drug pricing, and digitization – Part 2

    Dear NHIS,
    It’s me again trying to be a citizen helper. I have been wondering why we still have manual claims for pharmaceutical and medical reimbursement and capitation? In this era of computational software and Apps, this can’t just be right.

  • A MESSAGE TO MY FELLOW PARENTS, CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO

    A message to my fellow parents, challenging the status quo

    Opinion is that “the world we build tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today.” Over this weekend I have been pondering over a question I often ask myself regarding Ghana, i.e. “What have we done so wrong to deserve such a mess?”

  • A MESSAGE TO OUR CHILDREN; CHALLENGING THE CULTURAL STATUS QUO

    A MESSAGE TO OUR CHILDREN; CHALLENGING THE CULTURAL STATUS QUO

    Written By Kwame Asiedu - The introductory line to my favourite play written by Ola Rotimi is "The struggles of man begins at birth" and thus when Odewale the protagonist appears on stage as a man who is unaware of his true personality, the scene is set for a typical African script.

    Our children this is the reason for which I write, your emergence unto the stage of life is no accident. As long as two consenting adults decided without cohesion to engage in coitus without any back up in this day of contraceptive abundance and failed miserably in practicing interruptus, accidental birth is not an acceptable excuse.

    Consequently it is our responsibility as adults and parents to ensure that unlike Odewale you are aware of your true personality and constantly in tune with yourself. The reality is your life will be two phased; one lived in our shadows and the other as your own adult.

    It is important that you are mindful of the adage “your future lies exactly where your past began.” Thus never lose sight of your identity, research your culture but don’t accept it all as the gospel. Never believe that culture is set in stone, in fact it is a moving beast.

    Throughout history from the days when women suffragists in the United Kingdom fought for the right to vote back in 1872, through African countries struggle for independence in the middle of the twentieth century and the civil right movement, people have constantly challenged the status quo and reshaped customs and culture.

    It would be strange therefore if as parents we expected to educate you and dominate your space. Challenge our thoughts especially as we age and you mature into young adulthood, lest we pollute your space with thoughts laced with early stage degenerative brain disease.

    Dementia and Alzheimer are realities of our time and denial is the order of the day, you may be the ones to spot the first signs of our generations brain degeneration, don’t let that hold you back. In fact, help us accept the condition and malfunctioning of our brains when that time comes.

    Be conscious of our sensitivity and our ways but never let that prevent you from being yourself, the reality of life is that occasionally you will step on toes and offend people close to you. The hallmark of maturity is your ability to have your way and mend the fence. Sadly not all fences would be mended but that should not deter you go with your convictions.

    "Make a clean break, smooth or rough, from living in our shadows, taking the experience of the first phase of life only as a guide. Live your life in relevance with your time, for the knowledge that resulted in decisions of our time may have outlived their usefulness; truth is the customs that led to the creation of the typewriter for example are irrelevant in these days of the tablet."

    Always remember popular culture is a place where pity is called compassion, flattery is called love, propaganda is called knowledge, tension is called peace, gossip is called news, and auto-tune is called singing.

    This should not be the culture of your time for it stifles development, indemnifies ignorance, creates foot soldiers and makes nonsense of the human brain.

    Like Chuck Palahniuk said “the first step especially for young people with energy, drive and talent, but no money is to control your world by controlling your culture, to model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in, to write the books, model the science, make the music, shoot the films and paint the art.”

    Never accept the age old adage "the adult is always right." it is a saying skewed in chauvinistic beliefs, as adults we know we often get it wrong but struggle with accepting our faults, please don’t let us off the hook. Be tacit and help us to deal with our errors, it can be painful but cathartic.

    Always remember that no two people are the same, accept your differences; celebrate and explore them, let them be the basis of your learning and competitive edge. Don’t be afraid to compete for nothing is gained through lack of effort; reality is “failure to try is trying to fail.”

    Have faith but don’t be fundamentalists, never take any sacred book as the absolute truth, never believe that anyone in the days when healthcare was minimal lived to 969 years. Explore your faith and believe what is relevant, be mindful of the context, customs and times in which most of these sacred books were written. Live your lives by putting your faith in the context of your time.

    Be guided by distinguished scientist John Polkinghorne F.R.S. K.B.E view that “If we are seeking to serve the God of truth then we should really welcome truth from whatever source it comes. We shouldn’t fear the truth. Some of it will be from science, obviously, but by no means all of it. It will sometimes be perplexing, how this bit of truth relates to that bit of truth; we know that within science itself often enough and we find it outside of science as well. The crucial thing is to be honest."

    Always have an insatiable quest for success and be ambitious, "the butterfly thinks himself a bird" were the words of Gbonka only after Odewale had committed the abomination of killing his father and marrying his mother, tragic as it sounds he had succeeded in becoming king, thanks to his ambition.

    I would conclude by quoting Bob Nesta Marley “emancipate yourself from mental slavery, for none but yourself can free up your mind.” In recent days I have come to conclude that many who have traversed the heights of success in our generation have free up their minds and challenged the status quo.

    We may be your parents but we are no tin gods, we may know a bit more than you but honestly we don’t have all the answers. Like a line in the ode of my primary school goes “we the children of the university primary school our aim is to aspire higher and to follow our parents academically, more beyond is our motto.”

    We expect you to dominate your time beyond our wildest dreams and expectations and promise not to hold you back, like a pack of wolves when the hunger is right we shall let you lose.

  • A YEAR ON, REFLECTIONS ON THE FDA PETITION

    FOOD AND DRUGS AUTHORITY

     

    Written By Kwame Asiedu - Jarod Kintz, in This Book is Not for Sale, writes “Last year I built a Courage Machine, but I thought it might be noisy and was too afraid to turn it on. So I coated it with glue, covered it with cat hair, mounted it on my wall, and started claiming it was an exotic animal I killed on a Safari in Africa. I'd like to believe people believe me, on account of it being so strange that it has to be true.”

    This quote typifies many a Ghanaian, as a people's fear and lack of courage is the biggest drawback to challenging officialdom; we find loads of reasons to camouflage our fear.

    Recommended for you: RANDOM THOUGHTS; GIVE THANKS AND PRAISES

    A year ago this week, thanks to my conscience and insistence of some friends, I decided to intervene in a matter between the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and Tobinco Pharmaceuticals by petitioning the president of the Republic, John Dramani Mahama. This action was later backed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana and many interest groups.

    Consequently a committee was set up to investigate certain perceived lapses in the functions of the FDA. Initially the FDA showed belligerence and gross disrespect to the actions of the then sector Minister of Health Madam Sherry Ayittey and refused to appear before the committee. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the committee concluded its investigation and reported back to the minister who accepted the content of their report in full and promised to implement the findings.

    By this time my very character had been taken to the cleaners and my professional judgment subjected to serious public scrutiny. It was not pretty but the learnings for me were many.

    To start with, as a country our public institutions are shrouded in secrecy, the word transparent is alien and hated, personnel of these institutions perceive their roles as doing the Ghanaian a favour and not a public service. The arrogance of officialdom is palpable to say the least, holding to account, of any form is perceived as witch hunting and frowned upon.

    Anyone who dares to question officialdom is seen as the enemy and political connotations are quickly read into such actions. In short, my biggest learning was that most of these institutions are politicized to the core.

    Imagine the head of the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) the equivalent of the FDA in the United Kingdom Challenging the Authority of the Secretary of State for Health, following the setting up of a committee of enquiry? Never will that be tolerated; simply put his position would become untenable with his resignation not being far off.

    However, in Ghana the Chairman of the board of the FDA wrote a letter criticizing the actions of the Minister of Health for setting up a committee following a petition to the president of the land, using very unpalatable language and still kept his job, how bizarre.

    This to me is why our public institutions are failing; people get to the top because the appointments are at the pleasure of the president, hence competence is thrown out of the window and party loyalty is king.

    A check of many similar institutions in other jurisdictions makes our situation pathetic to say the least. Would it not be better if these positions were advertised, those who saw themselves competent allowed to apply and the appointment made through a search party?

    We all claim that the entrenching of our democracy would to a large extent be dependent on the strength of our public institutions, yet we look on as they are run at the whims and caprice of the political classes.

    How can any institution required to regulate medicines or any other part of our societal fabric for that matter, have its planning and longevity attached to the tenure of office of a president? Is this not too risky? Which medicines regulator in any serious country operates like this?

    Fancy an election year for example, when the results are too close to call, does it require looking into a crystal ball to ascertain that public officials would be treading on egg shells and basically become lame ducks?

    Is this situation not too dangerous for the regulation of a commodity like medicines, which basically are “poisons in low concentration?” I did say in the heat of the FDA brouhaha that “aduro enye toffee” and still hold strongly to that assertion; however my view is many of us Ghanaians see the situation differently.

    It’s a year since my petition but we are none the wiser whether the report of the committee has been implemented as was promised. Yes there has been a change of Chief Executive at the FDA and this may have a knock on effect on the leadership and direction of the organization; however what of the deep seated flaws that were identified by the committee, is the organization still being run with these as part of their ethos?

    Have the lapses that led to Tobinco circumventing regulation and clearing tons of medicines in fragrant violation been plugged? Let’s not be fooled we cannot always allow crumbs to be thrown at us as solutions to systemic failure, it is about time that we take the bull by the horn, shout at the top of our voices and challenge officialdom till our systems are allowed to work.

    As it’s often said, “an army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.” Seems to me there are too many sheep and very few lions in our country and the need to possibly find a rapid way of cloning a few more adult lions and lionesses is long overdue.

    I say without fear of contradiction that anyone buying medicines in Ghana should be genuinely worried unless they can check the authenticity of the product; fortunately the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana has backed an authentication scheme using the mpedigree platform, this is a good start, however should the regulator not be the one pushing for a national rollout to help them deal with the more serious regulatory lapses?

    We all know an empowered citizen is the hallmark of an empowered nation, unfortunately in our land strenuous effort is made to disempower the citizenry and this madness must cease.

    It is said “where angels fear to tread, fools trample and fall.” On this occasion I chose to be the fool and the one to bell the cat, we need more fools and more cats belled if we are serious about our public institutions.

  • ABSENT FATHERS; CONDEMNING A GENERATION TO THE DUNGEONS OF FAILURE

    ABSENT FATHERS; CONDEMNING A GENERATION TO THE DUNGEONS OF FAILURE


    Written By Kwame Asiedu - “If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.”

    Today is Father’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate donors of the swimming agents of fertilization. I have read a lot especially on social media about the split emotions this day tends to bring. To some their dads were exactly what they wished for, to others they were an apology to the male race. Often there is no middle line here, you are either one or the other. Many anecdotes of a good or bad dad often stems from the stories mothers tell, it’s most invariably a woman’s world. I have always tried to stay away from the justification of these stories but to focus on the advantages of having a good relationship with male role model. Statistics from the Her Majesty’s prisons indicate that 91% of all prison inmates are people without a fatherly figure in their lives. The situation is even worse amongst black and ethnic minority children where absence of a father often points to childhood delinquency.

    According to a UNICEF report, truancy and poor academic performance are rampant when fathers are absent. It states that, “71% of high school dropouts are fatherless; fatherless children have more trouble academically, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills; children from father absent homes are more likely to play truant from school, more likely to be excluded from school, more likely to leave school at age 16, and less likely to attain academic and professional qualifications in adulthood.” It is also known that, promiscuity and teen pregnancy is rife.  Fatherless children are more likely to experience problems with sexual health, including a greater likelihood of having intercourse before the age of 16, foregoing contraception during first intercourse, becoming teenage parents, and contracting sexually transmitted infection; girls manifest an abject hunger for males, and in experiencing the emotional loss of their fathers egocentrically as a rejection of them, become susceptible to exploitation by adult men.

    The data gets even worse, fatherless children are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, being five times more likely to have experienced physical abuse and emotional maltreatment, with a one hundred times higher risk of fatal abuse. They also report significantly more psychosomatic health symptoms and illness such as acute and chronic pain, asthma, headaches, and stomach aches. Their mental health is not spared too. Children without a fatherly figure are consistently overrepresented on a wide range of mental health problems, particularly anxiety, depression and suicide. Overall these children’s life chances look bleak from a social mobility point. In adulthood, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness.

    With all these data available, one may wonder why the situation still persists. It is not my place to lay blame at anyone’s door however a few contributors are known. Often a break up in a relationship between two adults leads to acrimony and bad blood. In the heat of things some men have abandoned their children as a means of settling scores with their mothers. For me this is the height of irresponsibility, especially when the child bears your name and would fly your flag. Many reasons have been adduced by those who have resorted to this option but none can trounce the evidence that in the end it’s your child, not your ex that suffers the most. Often as well this option allows the other party to paint a horrid picture to the children in an effort to explain your absence. Like the saying goes, “the stories that we were told in our childhood are an indicator of the views we hold today.” In the end when you come back to your senses, you will struggle to build any useful relationship with your offspring.

    Another real issue is when the mother attempts to use the children and the ability to be seen by their dad as a bargaining chips in any dispute. I find it strange that in this day and age some try to exploit the innocence of children to achieve their own selfish objectives, without pausing to think of the irreparable damage they do in the process. Again various reasons have been adduced but sadly the evidence makes these reasons fly in the face of common sense. In my books disputes between adults should not be made to define the future of anyone especially children. The interesting bit for me is that many engaging in this strategy claim to have been victims of same in their childhood and are permanently maimed by the experience, yet they see no sense in breaking the cycle.

    Increasingly, a body of evidence is building regarding the alpha female, who wants kids but not a relationship. They identify men who they think have the right genetic makeup and target them as potential natural sperm donors. Many even don’t bother indicating who made them pregnant as they are financially stable and capable of taking care of their child or at least so they think. Truth is all indications are that nurture plays a more important role than genetics in the overall outcome of a child. You may have all the resources but there are certain aspects of paternal involvement no money can buy. Then there are the children that result due to male over exuberance and the spreading of wild oats but like the saying goes, a mother often knows who the father is.

    The last major contributor is some of us men who go enjoying coitus and find no sense in using contraception or performing interruptus. Invariably a pregnancy occurs and guess what, we deny it. We suddenly become oblivious to the fact that in this age there are means of positively identifying paternity and become extremely obtuse to any form of common sense. To me these ones need castration, they have no business enjoying the honey pot. Often they give excuses ranging from fear of their spouse to them being trapped by the pregnant female. I find these excuses ludicrous to say the least. My advice is if you can’t stand the heat don’t venture into the kitchen. 

    Some will argue that in certain cases, the presence of the father is nothing more than “all but name.” My advice is that whatever your view is, look at the available data and be open minded, as adults we have a choice to make and this choice is about a future we don’t own. It is important that those whose future we hold in trust now appreciate the complexities of the decisions we had to make but more importantly are not dealt a bad card by our actions or omissions. To all the fathers who under all circumstances have braved the storm and kept the flame of paternity alive, I wish you well. To those who are a tad late in understanding our role not just as donors of swimming agents of fertilisation but real shapers of destinies, it’s not too late. Whatever the situation ladies it’s important to have androgens in the development of a zygote and none can deny that fact. I clearly understand that under certain circumstances it may be impractical to have a male mentor or biological dad involved in the upbringing of children but even then there are options to ensure this rather vital aspect of human development is not glossed over. I take a bow to go enjoy the sanctity of my children, whatever that means.

  • ACRIMONY; THE GENESIS OF OUR FAILURE TO PRESERVE OUR HERITAGE

    Heroes of Ghana’s Independence Struggle: the Big Six (B6) from Left to Right: Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Mr. Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, Dr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Dr. Edward Akuffo-Addo, Dr. J. B. Danquah, Mr. William Ofori Atta. Photo credit - Krinsol Ecotours

    Maria V. Snyder in Storm Glass writes, “Everyone grieves in different ways. For some, it could take longer or shorter. I do know it never disappears. An ember still smoulders inside me. Most days, I don’t notice it, but, out of the blue, it’ll flare to life.”

  • ADIOS MR PRESIDENT, THESE LEGACY PROJECTS MAY DEFINE YOUR LEGACY

    I therefore entreat Mr President not to stop at this project but to order an inventory of all such legacy projects across the country. I would crave his indulgence to then find a way of bringing closure to their transient states.

    “This light of history is pitiless; it has a strange and divine quality that, luminous as it is, and precisely because it is luminous, often casts a shadow just where we saw a radiance; out of the same man it makes two different phantoms, and the one attacks and punishes the other, the darkness of the despot struggles with the splendour of the captain. Hence a truer measure in the final judgment of the nations. Babylon violated diminishes Alexander; Rome enslaved diminishes Caesar; massacred Jerusalem diminishes Titus. Tyranny follows the tyrant. Woe to the man who leaves behind a shadow that bears his form.”

  • African Time And African Punctuality

    African Time And African Punctuality

    Is there anything really as “Ghana or African time”? I ask this because during the New Year I observed with awe the clock work with which 2013 changed to 2014, I was waiting to see a delay in Ghana for the year change, be it a cross over, hang over, sleep over, pass over, jump over as one may choose to call it, that did not happen, I suddenly had the inclination that the phrase “African time” wasa phrase of convenience. If pastors, night clubbers, sex mates, drunkards etc. could stick to the time for change of year, why can’t they do same all year? I tend to believe we are all too quick to accept same as the norm not the exception.

  • Ageing and Healthcare: A Dystopian Ghana

    Ageing and Healthcare: A Dystopian Ghana
    This coupled with a fluctuating Cedi and inflation puts many at the risk of destitution in old age. Ironically, the current financial sector mess makes it even less appealing to suggest otherwise to those who fail to save.

    Ray Bradbury, in The Illustrated Man, explains, “We’re all fools,” said Clemens, “all the time. It’s just we’re a different kind each day. We think I’m not a fool today. I’ve learned my lesson. I was a fool yesterday but not this morning. Then tomorrow we find out that, yes, we were a fool today too. I think the only way we can grow and get on in this world is to accept the fact we’re not perfect and live accordingly.”

  • Agents of change

    I am a strong believer in the teachings of history. Many assume systems change because aliens arrive from outer space and engineer change. Truth however is that, most change occurs simply because many dissatisfied with the status quo begin to challenge it. Many of these activists aren't perfectionist by any stretch of imagination but often even beneficiaries of the status quo. Some, may even be enjoying the pecs that the current reality affords. Hence, the cliche "often change comes from within."

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