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PopAds: Public Service Announcements of Ghana

Health PSAs from West Africa’s Black Star

By Joshua Brooks

Published December 4, 2013

Known promisingly as “Africa Lite,” Ghana is still facing its own fair share of health challenges that it is striving to keep under control. Although the country’s health indicators often fare much better than those countries around them, just like any other nation in the world, there are public health and medical professionals working to control and contain the most pertinent health issues. This comes not only with infrastructure building, but public health advertisements aimed at the general public.

I have spent the last two years working in Ghana on projects assessing health systems and emergency medical care as well as overseeing a clinical trial to determine if continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can decrease mortality. In the meantime, I’ve compiled pictures of some of the more interesting public health propaganda here and there. Below are some of the more interesting, entertaining and informative public health ads I’ve found in the Black Star of West Africa.

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Road traffic accidents are the third leading cause of death in 5-14 year olds and second leading cause in 15-44 year olds in low- and middle-income countries. Drunk driving is a major risk factor contributing to driver behavior that could cause road traffic accidents. And, although the data making that connection in Ghana are not available, a recent breathalyzer survey in Ghana showed that 7.3 percent of 722 randomly selected drivers had a blood alcohol concentration of ≥80 mg/dl. This is much higher than the 0.4 – 3.4 percent of drunk drivers found in similar studies elsewhere.

Now, there is much discussion of the way in which a public health message should be framed—positively or negatively. In this case, this drunk driving PSA in the second biggest city in Ghana, Kumasi, provides all manner of firm, but positive attempts to sway drivers away from drinking behind the wheel. “Do it. Don’t be afraid. Yes you can. Try hard. Drink responsibly.” A wealth of encouragement to prevent drivers from drinking and driving.

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Although sharp sticks may not seem like a serious public health problem, an epidemiological study of the Upper East region of Ghana showed that, of 941 patients with ocular injuries, 96 were serious enough to be admitted to in-patient care.  More than half of those 96 suffered injuries caused by sharp objects. So, suddenly it makes sense to see a public service announcement (PSA) shining light on this issue. Prevent blindness! Stop them momma!

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Advertisements are often sponsored by private foreign and local companies, like MTN or Vodofone. In this case, Ghana’s local travel agency Citi Travel sponsored this health PSA and placed it along the road out to Lake Bosumtwi, a popular tourist destination for Ghanaians and foreigners. The 2012  prevalence of HIV among 15-49 year olds in Ghana was 1.4 percent, and  12000 people died of AIDS that same year. With a lower prevalence  of AIDS than other African countries, Ghana continues to make strong gains with widespread campaigns to ramp up Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission counseling and other programs. In addition, the country has PSAs warning people of the risks of contracting HIV and raising awareness in order to avoid mistreatment of those living with HIV/AIDS. In this particular advertisement, the framing is quite kind, but with a hook: have fun… but think about AIDS.

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Tuberculosis (TB) is often considered a relatively neglected disease. But, the concerns raised from co-infection in those with HIV/AIDS and the emergence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis have placed a magnifying glass on the disease once again. This poster at Sunyani Regional Hospital highlights the disease and promotes Directly Observed Therapy –Short Course (DOTS), an approach to curbing TB which has been expanded by the World Health Organization. With DOTS, governments are meant to make sustained political and financial commitment, health clinics use bacteriology in case detection, standardized treatment and patient support is provided, drug supply and management is maintained and monitoring and evaluation systems are implemented. The bright colors and large type of text not only highlight DOTS, but the preventability of HIV and curability of TB. In the case of a disease that’s reemerging in new ways, it’s a colorful reminder.

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Distracted driving is becoming a bigger problem, it seems. Even in Ghana, I have seen drivers talking and texting regularly. The numbers of distracted drivers are not clear, but it’s a big enough concern that Ghana Road Safety is tweeting about it and PSAs like the one above are posted in Kumasi. It’s an international message: put your phone down to reduce your risk of a road traffic accident. Kill the conversation, not yourself…

Do you have any awesome or interesting PSAs you’ve photographed? If so, send them in to the2x2project@gmail.com and we may feature them in a PopAds piece.

Edited by Kathleen Bachynski

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The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the authors and do not represent those of the Department of Epidemiology, the Mailman School of Public Health, or Columbia University.