Beatrice Tetteh, M.D, recently traveled to Ghana where she performed clinical work, investigated congenital cardiac referrals for the region, and worked alongside the Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI).
GHEI is an NGO founded by a UCLA Pediatrics resident alumna with the objective of helping the people of Ghana build a sustainable future through community-based health and education projects.
Visit http://www.ghei.org for more information and volunteer opportunities.
What part of Ghana where you visiting and what was it like there?
I was in the Sefwi Bekwai region of Southwestern Ghana. Specifically I lived in the village of Humjibre, but I worked throughout the entire Sefwi Bekwai district. Districts in Ghana are almost identical to the County system used in the United States. Obviously, living in the village was very different from Southern California. Cocoa farming is the main source of work for the area’s inhabitants, but people are very entrepreneurial with roadside shops and other businesses.
The GHEI grounds are at a cross point between an elementary school and a high school. So every morning I could hear school children in the yard playing before the start of classes and reciting lesson plans during the school day. People worked hard during the day and in the evening they socialized out on the streets or at local spots in the area.
During your visit, what children’s health issues were at the forefront?
During my clinical work at the clinic and health center, malaria was by far the most common condition being diagnosed or suspected. Often times malaria was diagnosed according to the patient’s history or by a rapid screening test, much like what we use for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)/influenza.
Other health issues included inguinal hernias, tachypnea and poor oral intake. When treating patients we also had to take into consideration that parents might seek out alternative treatments instead of allopathic medicine. For example, we diagnosed an inguinal hernia in an 8-month-old boy and informed his mother that he would need at the very least a surgical consult in case his condition worsened. She said she was planning on seeing a herbalist to treat her child's hernia.
What types of interventions did you witness or take part in?
I had the opportunity to observe a delivery at the clinic in Humjibre. The midwife performed the delivery, cleaned up, and then proceeded to see the patients that were waiting. One can only see a physician in the hospitals, whereas the local clinics and health centers are staffed by midwives and medical assistants, respectively. My main clinical role was seeing patients at the Bekwai Health Center along with a medical assistant.
I also trained midwives, nurses, and other staff present at newborn deliveries in clinics and at the District hospital in resuscitation management. “Helping Babies Breathe” is a curriculum that originated from a partnership between the AAP and the World Health Organization. In order to address the millennium goal of decreasing infant mortality rates, this curriculum was designed specifically for areas with limited resources. Topics covered included recognizing signs of respiratory distress, standard newborn management, and bag mask ventilation. Each participant had hands-on practice performing bag-mask ventilation.