Ghana Looking to Score Big on Training Goals

Paul MarsdenAt my hotel in Accra, Ghana, there's a buzz of activity throughout the first week in October, as the national football team—the Black Stars of Ghana—converged for the first home match since their successful World Cup campaign in South Africa. For me, this trip was also a homecoming. Until this past year when I’ve resided in Washington, DC, I’d spent the better part of the last 20 years living in Africa.

However, my trip to Ghana with colleague Anne Wilson was not for football. Our brief was to look at preservice training of the health workforce, with a busy schedule of discussions, meetings, and field visits with stakeholders and implementing partners—including the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, the Health Workforce Observatory, and the main health training schools and teaching hospitals.

Ghana is one of 57 countries identified by the World Health Organization with insufficient numbers of available health workers and high overall mortality. In response Ghana is taking bold steps to transform its training supply pipeline towards producing a highly skilled workforce to address its pressing health needs.

Trainee nursing and medical officer studentsExcellent progress to date
Our visit serves to highlight the excellent progress Ghana has made to date. In particular, student intakes have substantially increased in line with projected targets, with health training schools now beginning to train more doctors, specialists, nurses, and midwives.  Additionally, Ghana is adjusting the focus of its training programs and workforce production more towards rural health needs and practices.

However, these increases in student numbers will need to be matched by added investment in faculty and training infrastructure. Also there is the looming challenge of developing sites for quality hands-on rural clinical practice in the later stages of training. Beyond this, a need to support and sustain decentralized human resources management systems and capacity that will help better plan for, distribute, utilize, and retain the workforce in areas that are less well served.

An ideal time to harness support
Ghana is moving in the right direction and is showing that it has the vision, leadership, and capacity to take forward its preservice training agenda. With the new Health Sector Medium-term Development Plan: 2010-2103, the timing is ideal to better engage all preservice agencies and stakeholders on the way forward—through joint collaboration and coordination that builds on the goodwill and valuable work that has been done do date.

Having recently witnessed Ghana’s tremendous achievements in world football, the team here at CapacityPlus looks forward to playing its part in attaining similar success in strengthening Ghana’s preservice training programs, and helping to score the ultimate goal of forming a more competent, responsive, and enabled health workforce.


Photos by Paul Marsden. (Trainee nursing and medical officer students awaiting clinical practice examination at Agogo Presbyterian Hospital in Ashanti-Akim North District, Ashanti Region)