Monday, 4 January 2010

It's Ghana be Fun

Howdy, folks. After a five-month hiatus, Tanzlines is back.

This time, I'm in Ghana with a group of students from Harvard, working on a healthcare project. I'm going to be splitting my time between Accra (the capital) and the Upper East Region.

The project itself is very interesting. Here's the background: for the past six years, Ghana has used a sort of hybrid healthcare system for the country. This model included local government-operated clinics (akin to the controversial "public option" in the US) and private healthcare providers (mostly in the big cities where the rich could afford them). Although the system worked well for some people, it has been fraught with a number of problems: long waiting times, lack of care for the poor (who should be eligible for free benefits), and mishandling of accounts at the local level, to name a few. Unsurprisingly, the people who have lost out under this system are often the poor.

Over the past year, the current government concluded that the healthcare system was broken and needed a complete overhaul. The national legislature (which is unicameral) has already developed several versions of a bill that would authorize a new, more effective system. As is very common the US or the UK, however, the forthcoming Act is too general to really operate on its own; it needs much lengthier regulations that flesh out how the system will actually work in practice. That's where our team comes in: our charge is to draft a large chunk of the national regulations to ensure that the health service will benefit the poorest members of Ghanaian society. The group consists of law students, public-health experts, Harvard professors, and Ghanaian lawyers. We'll also be collaborating with a couple of other Harvard-based organizations that are doing health-related work in and around Accra.

But I'll get to all of that in a later post.

After things wrap up with our project later this month, I'm going to backpack around nearby Togo and Benin for a week before returning home to the States. It's shaping up to be an interesting month!

I flew into Ghana late last night from London. So far, my impressions of Ghana are positive. The airport was a hassle-free experience: luggage on the belt in 5 minutes, pleasant passport officials, and (almost) tout-free arrivals area. When my transport forgot to show up, the negotiation process for getting a taxi was really quite civilized; they had a printed sheet for prices to almost every hotel in the city. The guesthouse we're staying at (bearing the beautiful name of SSNIT) is also really nice: cold AC, warm showers, clean sheets, and even a miniature flat-screen TV.

So, good first impressions. I'm heading down to breakfast now. Hopefully my outlook will remain positive after that.

1 comment:

  1. Word. Sounds like a sweet project. You and Dan can compare notes later on your contributions to national healthcare bills. Inverse correlation between the importance of your input and cluelessness of the government non-withstanding.