For three long decades, Ghana’s 1992 constitution has stood as a beacon of hope, promising a brighter future for its people. But hope alone cannot mend the fraying fabric of our society. The noble principles enshrined within this constitution, the directive principles of state policy, have, for too long, remained a subject of impassioned debate. While they offer a vision of prosperity, their implementation has often fallen short, leaving the promise of a better life for our citizens unrealized.
Yet, within this tangled web of missed opportunities and unfulfilled dreams, a glimmer of hope emerged. In alignment with the strategic direction of our health sector and the National Health Policy framework, the government took the bold step of sponsoring a bill in Parliament. This legislation was meant to breathe life into our vision of robust public health services and to combat the harmful and abusive practices that plague our society.
In 2012, that bill was transformed into law, the Public Health Act (Act 851), a beacon of hope for our nation’s health and well-being. Its purpose was clear: to pave the way for a healthier Ghana, consolidating the laws that protect us from disease, ensuring the safety of our people, both human and animal, and addressing the health-related concerns that plague our society. It was meant to be a tool to build a better tomorrow, where the well-being of our citizens would be paramount.
However, as the years have passed, we find ourselves at a crossroads. A decade has slipped by since the birth of the Public Health Act, and its promise remains unfulfilled. This is a matter close to the heart, not just of a public health enthusiast but of every compassionate soul who yearns for a Ghana where health and safety are paramount.
Dear Editors and Media Houses of Ghana,
I write to you today as a public health enthusiast and a young pharmacist concerned about a pressing issue that has largely gone unnoticed in our media landscape. Despite the enactment of the Public Health Act (Act 851) in 2012, it has come to my attention that various radio and TV stations in Ghana continue to broadcast advertisements for products claiming to cure or treat health conditions listed under the Fifth Schedule of the Act.
The Public Health Act was established to protect the health of Ghanaians by regulating the sale and advertisement of food, herbal medicinal products, cosmetics, drugs, medical devices, and household chemical substances. Section 114 of the Act specifically prohibits the advertisement of products as treatments or cures for certain diseases unless approved by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).
The diseases listed in the Fifth Schedule include serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis, and AIDS, among others. These prohibitions are in place to safeguard the health and well-being of our citizens and prevent false claims that could lead to harm.
It is disheartening to note that despite these legal restrictions, many media outlets are still allowing advertisements that promote products claiming to cure these conditions. This not only violates the law but also poses a significant threat to public health. The Act was put in place for a reason – to protect our citizens from potentially harmful treatments and to ensure that they have access to safe and effective healthcare.
I humbly implore all media houses to take this matter seriously and act in the best interest of public health. I therefore urge all media houses in Ghana to take immediate action by:
* Conducting internal training sessions for your teams dealing with advertisers and producers to ensure that they are aware of the legal requirements and the ramifications of violating the Public Health Act.
* Exercising due diligence in vetting and approving health-related advertisements to safeguard the public’s health.
* Raising public awareness about the dangers of unapproved and unregulated health products, and the legal consequences for violators
As a reminder of the potential dangers of disregarding the law, I draw your attention to the recent investigation by the Fourth Estate group, which revealed that a herbal drug called Macofa, advertised as a cure for a wide range of health conditions, was not approved by the FDA. Such incidents can have grave consequences, and it is our collective responsibility to prevent them.
In conclusion, the media plays a vital role in shaping public opinion and behavior. By complying with the Public Health Act and promoting only approved and safe health products, we can contribute to the well-being of our fellow Ghanaians. Let us work together to prioritize public health, ensure legal compliance, and protect our citizens from potential harm.
Together, we can create a Ghana where the promises of our constitution and the vision of the Public Health Act are not empty words but a living testament to our commitment to the well-being of every Ghanaian. Let us, as a nation, unite to protect our citizens and uphold the principles of public health.
Chairperson, Early Career Pharmaceutical Group, Ghana