Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) refers to a group of conditions that are not mainly caused by an acute infection, result in long-term health consequences and often require long-term treatment and care. These conditions include cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung illnesses. NCDs kill an estimated 86,200 persons in Ghana each year, according to the Ministry of Health. With an insurgence in the use of shisha and hard drugs among other unhealthy lifestyles, young people in Ghana are at a higher risk of developing NCDs in their adulthood.
Early prevention is really key. A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and physical activity is the important to preventing NCDs. Both diabetes and obesity are two huge problems among young children and the youth in Ghana. Studies have shown that the prevalence of overweight among school children in the urban regions of Ghana is 41-52 %.
A preparatory study, leading to the project, discovered a lack of awareness and limited knowledge on NCDs among young people. Therefore, Hope for Future Generations (HFFG) together with International Medical Corporation (IMCC-Ashipti), a Danish organization, developed a project with the aim to improve physical health and well-being of children and young people.
The planning of the project started in 2020 with the pilot phase launched on 5th April 2023 at St. Dominic Catholic Schools A&B in Accra. Funded by the Danish Youth Council, the project is being implemented in aforementioned schools and will run for a year.
The goal of the project is to improve physical health and well-being of children & youth in Ghana, for increased knowledge on NCDs with the following objectives:
- To increase physical activity among school kids between age 12-15 in Accra
- To adapt a healthy and varied diet among school kids between age 12-15 in Accra
- To increase knowledge on NCDs and risk factors among beneficiaries
- To recruit and strengthen the capacity of volunteers on the project.
- To increase stakeholder engagements and social media advocacy on NCDs
With both implementing organisations being youth-focused organisations, the project is being led by young people (volunteers) for young people. The volunteers leading the project also undertake mentorship and capacity strengthening activities to broaden their knowledge on NCDs and acquire skills on project management.
During the launch, all the beneficiary students received water bottles and skipping ropes to help them start their healthy life journey. Banners on healthy recipes and simple exercises and games to keep them active were handed over to the schools.
Different activities to improve students engagement in physical activity and healthy eating will be performed throughout the year to achieve the project objectives.
Participating in the project launch were staff from the Ga East Educational Directorate, the management and staff and students of St. Dominic Catholic Schools A&B and staff and volunteers from HFFG.
Speaking at the launch, the School Health Education Programme (SHEP) Coodinator for Ga East, Ms. Dorothy Owusu reiterated the timeliness and importance of the project at a time when young people are increasingly making uninformed and unhealthy life choices that are likely to affect their health in the future. She charged the students to participate in the activities and learn with open minds to benefit from the project.
The teachers and management of St. Dominic Catholic Schools A&B expressed their enthusiasm and assured their commitment to the project.