COVID-19 presents a global threat for the health of the world’s population. Ghana is mobilizing a national effort to align resources and strengthen coordination to effectively respond to the threat. Under the leadership of the President of Ghana, the Government of Ghana (GoG) appointed a Presidential Coordinator for Ghana’s COVID response, to ensure a strong, well-coordinated approach across sectors, levels and partners.  

Because of the program’s expertise in integrated health systems improvement, the Accelerator, led by Dr. Chris Atim, participated in technical discussions to identify key functions and capacities needed for the effective design and execution of the national COVID-19 response. The Accelerator was also tapped to coordinate with other development partners including the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Global Fund to understand the Ministry of Health’s short and long-term needs around technical assistance in health financing, exploring the creation of a health economics and finance unit, and trying to harmonize support provided by any development partners related to COVID-19.

The Accelerator worked with the GoG to establish five Advisory Cells organized around epidemiology and surveillance, clinical care, psycho-social support, risk communication, and (newly proposed) health systems strengthening (HSS) to generate new knowledge to inform the response. The HSS cell has been established to capitalize upon the heightened, high-level focus on the health sector by policy makers to bring the longer-standing, pre-COVID challenges of the health sector including domestic resource mobilization to the fore of the policy makers’ attention.

These cells consolidate global evidence, best practice, and local knowledge to advise the President and the  COVID-19 Presidential Coordinator’s Office’. Each cell is led by a coordinator and supported by around 5-6 experts in the field who are consulting and advising on the best way forward. Together, the Accelerator and the GoG identified and engaged key experts and managers to fill key roles within this structure.

“Our work with the COVID-19 Presidential Coordinator’s Office’ will improve the coordination of the response and ensure that the GOG is equipped with the tools, knowledge, and evidence to accurately respond,” said Chris Atim, senior program director at Results for Development and the Accelerator’s country director. “Our goal is to help them address the immediate challenge of responding to the pandemic, while also equipping them with structures and other tools to support long term health systems strengthening efforts.”

Accelerator support also includes convening key decisionmakers to proceed with data generation and integration to unify and streamline COVID-19 contact tracing and case management systems; conducting preliminary scoping to identify and understand efforts of and opportunities for collaboration with institutions that have previously supported or are currently supporting facilities mapping activities; and contracting staff from the University of Ghana to provide development and maintenance support for real-time ArcGIS systems and dashboards to provide the Presidential Coordinator’s office with situational epidemiological and surveillance maps and data.

These new systems will provide the five Advisory Cells and the COVID-19 Presidential Coordinator’s Office’ with real-time data from laboratories and service delivery sites managing cases and providing care to support their deliberations and recommendations.

On June 9, the Accelerator supported the MOH to convene a meeting of stakeholders to specifically discuss the COVID-19 response systems for contact tracing and case management by Ghana Health Service, University of Ghana School of Public Health, and University of Ghana Medical Centre. Participants presented and discussed the current data systems in use and how those efforts might be harmonized going forward. During the meeting, the University of Ghana team presented its live data, which is currently being directed to dashboards for the Presidential Coordinator and his team. It is ultimately envisioned that the dashboards will be integrated into the Surveillance, Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS), a system being used by the Ghana Health Service, to support future disease surveillance for the whole country.

At a very early stage in Ghana’s national response, the Accelerator arranged for international experts from South Korea and Singapore to share their experiences virtually with Ghana’s Presidential COVID-19 Response Coordinator. These experts were active in the COVID-19 responses of their respective countries; both countries have been lauded for their exemplary management of the response.

Ongoing support to the national COVID-19 response

The Accelerator is designed to support long-lasting health systems improvement by partnering with in-country institutions and organizations to adapt successful interventions to different contexts, scale up innovation, apply cutting edge theories and technology, and support global sharing and learning.

The program’s support to Ghana addresses immediate time-sensitive needs while also building capacity for emergency response and longer-term health systems strengthening using sustainable and institutionalized approaches. Looking ahead, the Accelerator will continue to work with the COVID-19 Presidential Coordinator’s Office’ to scale up the national COVID-19 response while strengthening the health system to respond to future shocks.