Accra, Sept. 11, GNA – The Rheumatology
Initiative (tRi) Foundation, a non- profit organisation, dedicated to provide
education, advocacy and research into the autoimmune rheumatic conditions in
Ghana and Africa, has officially been launched in Accra.
It has a special focus on young and
adolescent persons with these conditions.
It seeks to create advocacy for people with
such conditions, and help conduct research into the causes and treatment of
such conditions as well as providing support, services and hope to persons
affected and their loved ones.
The term autoimmune disease refers to a
varied group of illness that involves almost every human organ system; the
body’s immune system becomes misdirected and attacks the very organs it was
designed to protect.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Dr Dzifa
Dey, the Director for tRi Foundation said research shows that autoimmune
diseases are on the increase, globally, whereas, autoimmune diseases strike
women three times more than men.
She said with a population of more than 24
million people in Ghana, West Africa, very little is known about
autoimmune/rheumatology diseases despite its incurable nature, therefore there
is a need to create more awareness.
“The first rheumatological unit was
commissioned only six years ago (2012), and it currently treats about a 1000
patients with only two specialists in the country,” she added.
The Director noted that a relative lack of
awareness among the general population and even among health professionals
about rheumatologic diseases, together with limited diagnostic facilities,
implies a lot of patients are not diagnosed until their diseases are far
She said at the Medical Unit of Korle-Bu
Teaching Hospital, a two year audit of in-patient admissions showed rheumatologic
cases constituted 5.8 per cent f all medical admissions.
Dr Dey, who is also a Physician Specialist /
Rheumatologist, explained that most deaths are from infections and renal
complications while the mortality rate is at a highly unacceptable figure of 48
She noted that symptoms vary widely, notably
from one illness to another and even within the same disease; and since the
diseases affect multiple body systems, their symptoms are often misleading,
which hinders accurate diagnosis.
Dr Dey said access to effective treatment is
known to keenly improve survival, but unfortunately for patients in developing
countries like Ghana, there is limited access to these lifesaving medications
mainly due to financial constraints, which limit the treatment benefits that
can be offered with the timely appropriate treatment.
“Most of these medications are not covered
by the National Health Insurance Scheme, and for those who can afford it, the
options are limited to treatments, which may be sub-optimal due to costs,
scarcity of the drugs and inferior generics; these drugs in an acute flare can
cost up to GH₵ 2000 per person.”, she added.
She said over the past four years, tRi has
been the only sympathizer to many sufferers of these diseases, as it focuses on
advocacy, education, providing life saving treatments, skills training,
fundraising, support groups and charity shop to support its members.
Dr Linda Vanotoo, Greater Accra Regional
Director of Health Service, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the
sideline of the event, called on benevolent individuals and organisations to
support people living with such conditions.
Dr Vanotoo, who described the Foundation’s
mission as a worthy course, stated that the education, advocacy and research
would not only create the awareness for the public including care providers, but
it would as well help Ghana as a whole, get its records right.
She expressed the hope that people would be
found to be diagnosed and managed; “and we can have more doctors trained as
Ghana currently has only two doctors”.
“It will help to know the extent of the
disease so we can have more people showing interest and going for training
thereby decentralising the training so that some of the patients will have
doctors taking care of them in other places instead of everybody moving to
Accra for treatment, which adds to the cost of the treatment,” she added.
The ceremony was crowned with a fundraising.