26 July 2016
Rosie Spencer is one of eight Lancaster students attending a summer school in Ghana for an undergraduate level course in health and infectious disease.

The annual study abroad programme at Lancaster University’s Accra-based campus is being co-delivered by Dr Rod Dillon and Dr Jackie Parry from Lancaster University and staff from Boston University.

Day 1

Today was the first full day in Accra. I don't think anyone expected it to be quite this warm, 25 degrees at 7:30am. We had a campus tour and an introductory meeting at the campus; everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

In the afternoon we went for our very first Ghanaian meal, chicken (that was the spiciest thing I have ever eaten, and I didn't even add any extra hot pepper sauce) with yam fries (like very dense potatoes, as if someone has wrapped bread in a potato skin and fried it) with pineapple & ginger juice. It was so tasty, but it is definitely going to take a while for me to get used to the spices here. 

Day 2

Another early start for our first day of lectures. We had an introduction to life in Ghana, including information on the culture and religions. Our first actual class was based upon Social Determinants of Health in Ghana. This focussed on the criteria for judgement of health, such as what is health to each of us? What does having a healthy population mean?

 In the evening, we all went to Republic Bar & Grill to celebrate Republic Day, the day that Ghana gained its independence.

Day 7

In the afternoon we visited Nyago Medical Centre, one of the leading private hospitals here in Ghana.

I was shocked at the prices of the medical care here. In the UK, just to have a consultation with a specialist consultant you can look to pay upwards of £150. Whereas here, a GP consultation is 75 cedi (around £15) and a consultation with a specialist is 175 cedi (around £35). This is so much cheaper than in the UK but you receive the same standard of care from people with the same qualifications.

Another thing that surprised me was that you didn’t need a GP referral to see a consultant. In the UK, this is essential.

Day 9

Tonight we went to SkyBar25 in Accra. It was so so fancy. The view was amazing. We could see over the entire city. We were offered a drinks menu but we were all more interested in the food menu (chocolate brownie and pistachio ice cream I am coming for you). The staff were really nice and attentive. It was nice to have a night out with everyone that we could all get dressed up for

Day 10

At the Shai Hill nature reserve we visited, there was baboons everywhere, LITERALLY EVERYWHERE. One came way too close to me and I ran off and hid behind a tree like the child I am. Angelica made the tragic decision to open a tub of Pringles around the baboons and was immediately surrounded by angry baboons demanding food.  

Day 13

We started the day with lectures, which today focussed on the impact of the physical environment and neighbourhood risks on health. We discussed how minority, poor communities often live in bad neighbourhoods with poor quality housing, leading to an increase in health problems like asthma.

In the afternoon, we visited the WHO. When we arrived, we had to provide ID, then sign in at reception, then sign in again in the conference room. It was all very strict and felt very professional. The presentation was given to us by the economic head of the Ghana WHO office. He explained very clearly what they do here, how they are working towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.

It seemed as though they had a clear plan for how to tackle issues that are important here in Ghana, such as the spread of infectious diseases like malaria and TB.

Day 16

The drive up to the hotel (to Cape Coast) was a beautiful coastal road and you could see straight out to the ocean. 

After a quick unpack, we had dinner. During dinner, there were traditional dancers and drummers playing. After dinner, we all sat and had a few drinks.

Day 19

Today we had our first lectures with Dr Jackie Parry and Dr Rod Dillon from Lancaster University. Their lectures focussed on the prevention of malaria via mosquito control. It discussed the life cycle of Aedes and Anopheles mosquitos and the measures taken to control the spread of malaria. They then discussed the means in which malaria control can be communicated to the public, such as through education programmes.

In the afternoon, we visited the National Malaria Control Programme. They discussed the aims of their project; how they are working to distribute long lasting insecticide treated nets to reduce the spread of malaria in children and pregnant women, how they are injecting pregnant women throughout their pregnancy so that their unborn foetus is protected against malaria.

Day 21

This morning we visited Korle-Bu teaching hospital.

We spent a lot of time at the reconstruction, plastic and burns ward, it was clearly a ward they were very proud of. We were given a presentation by the director of this ward on the kind of cases they receive (keloids, burns, ulcers, trauma injuries), the issues they face (lack of man power, health care financing, attitudes and ignorance towards medical care).

I was shocked however, to discover that cases could only be handled by visiting doctors, as they had no in staff surgeons or consultants, and how the ratio of surgeon to patient is 1:3million, despite WHO recommendations of a 1: 100,000 ratio.

During the tour, he showed us some pretty graphic photographs of the kind of cases they see here. Although this was at times disturbing, it was interesting to see the variety of cases that such few doctors have to treat.

He also explained that many patients do not come to the hospital until their conditions are often at the most severe stage, as many of them turn to herbal healers first; such as a case of a woman who found a lump in her breast, visited the hospital and was told to come back for surgery, but instead went to prayer camp for a number of months and only returned to the hospital when the tumour had taken over her entire breast and ribcage.

Day 23

This morning we were back at Noguchi to check on our cultures from the water sampling on Wednesday.

After conducting these tests, we then conducted antibiotic sensitivity testing. This is done as many bacteria are now developing a resistance to antibiotics. We picked colonies from each of the plates that showed clear growth and spread them onto new nutrient agar plates. Antibiotic discs were then placed over the top of these plates and left to incubate at 37 degrees overnight.    

After waiting in the heat to be picked up, we got back to the hotel and had lunch. We then went to campus for a guest lecture on public health and infectious diseases, given by Paul, the head of Kasoa Polyclinic. He discussed the impacts of globalisation on public health and how mass migrations can increase the spread of infectious diseases, such as how the increase in Liberian refugees into Kasoa has put great strain on the resources at the polyclinic.

After class we were allowed some freedom so we went to a café near the campus and got brownies and smoothies. They tasted so good.

You can read Rosie's full blog here.

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