Child and Adult Mortality in Ghana

Child and Adult Mortality in Ghana


Health issues are a significant factor in the development of a country. High child and adult mortality rates inhibit a country’s growth, thus resulting in failure towards the attainment of the set goals. Child and adult mortality rates in the African continent derail the rate at which the developing countries are improving their economic, social, and political conditions. Ghana is one of the African countries affected by relatively high mortality rates, thus necessitating the need to explore the health issues. The reason for selecting the country is due to its poor economic development, hence inadequate health services as depicted by high mortality rates. This paper aims at analyzing the health status in Ghana by considering its child and adult mortality rates and the roles of its nursing professionals in alleviating the issues.


Ghana is located in the sub-region of West Africa along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. With a surface area of 238,535 km2, Ghana’s immediate neighbors include Burkina Faso to the north, Côte d’Ivoire to the west and Togo to the east. The Atlantic Ocean borders the country to the south. River Volta is the largest river in the country. Plains, hills, rivers, mountains, caves, forests, and islands constitute the country’s geography (The World Bank, 2015).

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The Ghanaian population is made up of 75 ethnic groups that are distributed all over the country. The census conducted in 2012 indicated that the country has a population of approximately 25,000,000 people. The population constitutes 49% males while females account for the remaining 51%. The densely populated areas include the cities of Kumasi and Accra, the Ashanti region, and the coastal region. The Ghanaian population density is 78 persons per square kilometer. The southern half of the “country makes up 70% of the total population and 71.5 % of the total population is literate whereby the literacy rates for males and females is 78.3% and 65.3% respectively” (The World Bank, 2015, par. 8).


The Ghanaian government is characterized by a unitary system of government that supports a presidential constitutional democracy. The political structure is attributed to a multi-party parliamentary system that is representative of citizens from various regions (Ministry of Health Republic of Ghana, 2015). John Dramani Mahama, the sitting President of Ghana, acts as the head of state and government. He is also the commander-in-chief of the Ghanaian armed forces. The primary structures of the Ghanaian system of government constitute the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature.


One of the economically stable countries in Africa is Ghana, thus making it the ninth-largest economy in the continent. In 2014, the Ghanaian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $38.6 billion accounting for a 4.2% growth from the previous year. The per capita income was $1,474 in the same year. In the last five years, the Ghanaian economy has recorded a compounded annual growth of 8%. Despite the positive economic trends, the country’s inflation rates were at 15.5% in 2014 whereas the unemployment rates were at 4.5%. The major industries in Ghana are lumbering, mining, manufacturing, food processing, aluminum smelting, and shipbuilding (The World Bank, 2015).

The State of Health in Ghana

Various risk factors have subjected the health status of the Ghanaians threats in spite of the government’s efforts towards the provision of quality health care services. In 2012, the causes of death induced by communicable diseases, maternal complications, prenatal issues, and nutrition conditions resulted in 50.7% of the total deaths in Ghana. Accidents leading to detrimental injuries accounted for 7.8% of the total deaths during the same period while 41.5% of the mortality totals were attributed to non-communicable diseases (Index Mundi, 2015). Therefore, diseases and other health complications formed the substantial causes of child and adult mortality in Ghana followed by non-communicable diseases while accidents and violence constituted the smallest percentage.

In 2013, the child mortality rates (under five years) were 78.4 per 1000 live births. Adult mortality rates in the same year were 223.49 and 272.4 for females and males per 1000 adults respectively. The life expectancy in Ghana is 63 years thereby implying that the government needs to take measures to prolong it (World Health Organization, 2015).

Culture/Traditional Medicine

Traditionally, Ghanaians sought medical attention from practitioners who used local wisdom, spiritual beliefs, and herbs. Allopathic medicine was later introduced in the country during the colonial period through missionary activities. However, various governments since Ghana attained independence have been safeguarding the traditional methods of healthcare. The Ministry of Health in Ghana has embarked on the development of traditional and alternative medicines through policies geared towards the improvement of the country’s health status despite the challenges that it faces. The policies have seen the incorporation of traditional and contemporary medicinal approaches that include acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy, homeopathy, and hydropathy (Ministry of Health Republic of Ghana, 2015). Therefore, the Government of Ghana values traditional medical practices by enhancing the provision of the services by supporting innovations and integration with alternative medical practices.

Healthcare System and Delivery

The government of Ghana ensures that all its citizens benefit from the health services provided by the state. The service delivery is structured according to various levels. There are five levels of health providers in Ghana. The first level is situated in the rural areas followed by health centers and clinics. The third level is characterized by district hospitals while the fourth level consists of regional hospitals. At the helm of the health, institutions are the tertiary hospitals (Ministry of Health Republic of Ghana, 2015).

Governmental Health-Related Agencies

The government of Ghana provides health care services through its health agencies led by the Ministry of Health and facilitated by the Ghana Health Services. The Ministry of Health values the provision of quality health services geared towards the attainment of the desirable health status by the end of 2015 (Ministry of Health Republic of Ghana, 2015). The governmental health agencies strive for “the creation of wealth through health” by engaging in partnerships geared towards social and economic prosperity. The Ghana Health Services is an “Executive Agency that implements the policies formulated by the Ministry of Health autonomously” (Ministry of Health Republic of Ghana, 2015, par. 6). The autonomy of the department aims at enhancing the provision of quality services without political influence.

Healthcare Personnel

Despite the considerable progress of the Ghanaian health sector, the country lacks adequate medical personnel required to serve over 25 million citizens. An estimated workforce of “52 258 individuals are formally employed in the Ghanaian health sector whereby 81.5% of the employees work in the public sector, where clinical and non-clinical staff account for 56% and 44% of the healthcare personnel” (Alhassan et al., 2013, p. 1480). The government has registered 21,791 traditional medical practitioners and 367 traditional birth attendants.

The Government of Ghana needs to alleviate the pressure exerted on the inadequate health care staff members. Additionally, issues like the lack of health care workers’ motivation, uneven distribution of personnel, and inadequate health care facilities need to be addressed for the alleviation of the high child and adult mortality rates.

Nursing Education System and Accrediting Organizations

The education system in Ghana allows high school graduates to be admitted to colleges and universities for the pursuit of nursing careers provided they are qualified. In this regard, various nursing education institutions accept students for various nursing programs. However, a substantial number of the applicants have the threshold requirements and qualifications, which exceed the available slots for admission. Therefore, there is a need to develop the education infrastructure to enhance the expansion of the health care workforce.

The body responsible for the accreditation of the qualifications in Ghana is the National Accreditation Board. The board focused on the evaluation of certifications of various education programs including nursing (Bell, Rominski, Bam, Donkor, & Lori, 2013),

Nursing Associations

In Ghana, the overall professional association for various categories of nurses is the Ghana Registered Nurses’ Association (GRNA). The Association was formed by merging the State Registered Nurses Association and the Qualified Nurses Association to unify all nurses and midwives in the country (Alhassan et al., 2013).

Health Priorities

Due to the various inefficiencies in the Ghanaian health care sector, prioritization of critical issues is essential for the provision of quality services to reduce the high mortality rates. In this view, the Ministry of Health needs to focus on the curtailment of the issues that cause deaths in the country, thus resulting in alarming mortality rates. This aspect includes the enhancement of the children’s health concerning medical services, nutrition, and quality parental care. The mitigation of the spread of communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS needs to be prioritized since it accounts for a considerable percentage of deaths in Ghana. Moreover, measures for the prevention of injury-based deaths such as accidents need to be considered.

The expansion of the health care personnel in Ghana is also a matter of prioritization for the delivery of quality services to a population of over 25,000,000 people. Furthermore, the motivation of the employees in the health care sector needs to be underscored by the Ministry of Health through its agencies. For instance, improved rewards in the form of remuneration would encourage the health workers to improve their performance. Besides, the distribution of human resources should be equitable throughout the country to ensure that all citizens receive health services. Additionally, the Government of Ghana should prioritize the development of infrastructure in the health sector to enhance service delivery using modern facilities (Bell et al., 2013).

Nursing Implication

In conclusion, the nursing fraternity in Ghana can play a central role in addressing the areas that need prioritization. In the mitigation of the causes of child and adult mortality, nursing professionals should play their proficient roles in administering medical and health services to patients with the primary goal of saving lives ethically. Additionally, nursing professionals could initiate research geared towards the alleviation of the deaths caused by communicable and non-communicable diseases. Moreover, there is a need for the nursing profession in Ghana to portray self-drive and commitment in the line of duty without waiting for motivation from other parties. The professionals could also show interest in working in any region they are posted to mitigate regional health care disparities in the country. The medical associations in Ghana led by the GNRA can play the role of lobbying government officials to formulate policies that would streamline the health care services in the country.


Alhassan, K., Spieker, N., van Ostenberg, P., Ogink, A., Nketiah-Amponsah, E., & Rinke, F. (2013). Association between health worker motivation and healthcare quality efforts in Ghana. Human Resources for Health, 11(37), 1478-91.

Bell, A., Rominski, S., Bam, V., Donkor, E., & Lori, J. (2013), Analysis of nursing education in Ghana: Priorities for scaling-up the nursing workforce. Nursing & Health Sciences, 15(2), 244–249.

Index Mundi: Ghana – Mortality rate. (2015). Web.

Ministry of the Health Republic of Ghana: About MOH. (2015). Web.

The World Bank: Ghana. (2015). Web.

World Health Organization: Mortality and global health estimates. (2015). Web.


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