IBM isn’t all computers and services and big money. Company experts are now working with the Ghana Ministry of Health to find a way to provide all Ghanaians with access to healthcare, while also making medicine more available and less costly. What the company is calling a “blueprint” includes recommendations for setting up ways to provide more timely and detailed information to decision-makers.
Ghana is a small African country with almost 25 million residents, who can expect to live 63.8 years. Compared to the US, where life expectancy is almost 84 years, Ghanaians could well benefit from ways to stay healthy. In Ghana 74.4 infants out of 1,000 will die before the age of five. In 1990, it was double that, so some things are improving in this country.
Ghana ranks 49th in the world for infant mortality, while the U.S. holds 29th. Malaria, a big killer in this country, causes 28 out of 1,000 children who sleep under an insecticide-treated net to die, while of those who come in to see healthcare providers already with fever, 43 perish.
Other health issues that concern this tiny country include the fact that only 18 percent of the urban population in 2008 had access to sanitary facilities, which can lead to widespread disease like cholera, and even diarrhea, which can kill small children, according to figures compiled by Unicef. In 2010, only 99 out of 1,000 children under the age of one were vaccinated for TB and even less for other diseases like DPT, a group name for diptheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus, a deadly round of infectious diseases.
The IBM team, which included twelve citizens from nine countries, was in Ghana as part of IBM’s pro-bono Corporate Service Corps program, in which IBM deploys teams of top employees to municipalities and countries to work on projects that intersect with business, technology and society.
According to a company statement, the engagement in Ghana was coordinated with USAID, the government agency that provides U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide. IBM is also working with USAID to help other companies develop international volunteerism programs. IBM said in the press release that the Ghanaian health sector has faced various challenges,
“including weak logistical data, poor visibility and insight into medical data, limited medical product availability and quality, uneven planning and coordination, and occasional misalignment of health objectives and incentives…largely a result of a strongly decentralizing sector, leading to fragmented coordination.”
After investigation and review, IBM came up with three recommendations for the Ghana Ministry of Health: develop informed decision-making based on identifying and managing risks at critical control points; establish a highly accessible and visible cost model to enable managers to identify costly medical products and services, and develop a high level blueprint for building an information system supporting the delivery of medicines within the healthcare system.