Publication date: 
March 14, 2017


The Ministry of Health of Ghana is using burden of disease data to identify the biggest health problems in the country and guide health planning.

The country has made impressive progress in tackling some of the most pressing health challenges facing the population. Underpinning Ghana’s progress has been a longstanding culture of using evidence for policymaking and performance assessment. For example, the Ministry of Health produced a policy report based on the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study. The report, entitled Ghana Burden of Disease Study – 2016, sheds light on leading causes of health loss in the country and their risk factors.

In the foreword, the Minister of Health, the Honorable Alex Segbefia, wrote, “For decision-makers, health-sector leaders, researchers, and informed citizens, the Ghana Burden of Disease up-to-date study provides an opportunity to see the big picture, to compare diseases, injuries, and risk factors, and to understand in a given place, time, and age-sex group, what are the most important contributors to health loss in Ghana.”

The Ministry of Health convened a team of experts to scrutinize the GBD estimates, examining data sources and methods that GBD researchers used. They combined estimates from the GBD 2013 study with local data sources, such as population estimates from the Ghana Statistics Service*, to generate a new set of estimates for disease burden in the country that are similar to estimates from the GBD 2013 study. The experts also made recommendations about areas where the country needs to collect additional data to improve burden of disease estimation.

“Evidence should be the basis for priority setting in the health sector,” said Dr. Emmanuel Odame, Director of Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of the Ministry of Health, who is a co-author of the report and a collaborator on the IHME-led GBD study.

This report examines population health trends in Ghana and makes comparisons with the available data sources in the country in an effort to draw informative lessons for the country’s policymaking and implementation agenda. Calling out the biggest causes of disease burden and the risk factors that drive them can help decision-makers in the country identify areas where further policy attention is needed.  “It is my sincere hope that this report will henceforth become the single most important point of reference for the Government of Ghana and Development Partners for strategic planning of health service delivery and resource mobilization, to realize our dream of having a healthy population for National Development,” wrote Hon. Segbefia.

Ghana recognizes that population health is a central pillar in its efforts to reduce poverty and ensure sustainable development. For example, the theme of the National Health Policy is “Creating Wealth through Health,” which underscores the linkages between good health and wealth creation as well as general population well-being. 

The Ghana Burden of Disease Study – 2016 highlights that Ghana’s disease burden is primarily dominated by infectious causes such as malaria, lower respiratory infections, neonatal sepsis, and HIV/AIDS. At the same time, in line with regional trends, the impact of non-communicable diseases – such as ischemic heart disease and diabetes – is becoming increasingly important.

The Government of Ghana has embraced health financing mechanisms that promote equity, cross-subsidization, and solidarity across the population to make progress toward universal health coverage.

The Ministry of Health of Ghana recognizes that the data from the Global Burden of study are useful for policymaking and planning at the country level, particularly when adapted to the local policy context. Toward this end, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and the Ministry of Health will collaborate closely to strengthen GBD estimates and ensure support and uptake from local decision-makers.

*The Global Burden of Disease study, led by IHME, uses population estimates from the World Population Prospects.