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The article below was written by Candy Bertini, a manager for Glax0-Smith Kline in Raleigh, NC. GSK is doing a great job in research and providing medicines and vaccines to help treat diseases throughout the world. Visit them at www.gsk.com.

Ghana: Helping Healthcare Eefforts
11/13/2007 03:41 PM

Candy Bertini, manager in Employee Health Management’s Disability Services, based at RTP, makes regular visits to Ghana as part of a charity mission dedicated to helping healthcare efforts through the use of mobile medical clinics.

GSK leaders have been sharing with us inspiring photos and experiences from their visits to Africa. I recently returned from my third trip to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), specifically in the north-eastern region of Ghana. .

Image:Your story - Ghana: Helping healthcare effortsWe visit SSA at the end of the rainy season when it is a bit cooler than much of the rest of the year, when temperatures are generally above 100 degrees. We have encountered scorpions, a chameleon and a python – all of which provide great memories, but of course the best memories and experiences are the friendships forged with Ghanaians.

I thoroughly enjoy meeting and interacting with people of other cultures. Playing games with the children is a clear reminder that people are people no matter where we live.

One of our goals is to provide some healthcare access through free mobile medical clinics. We partner together with workers as provided by the Ghanaian Ministry of Health from the nearest health clinic. A local political official of the Bunkpurugu-Yanyoo region greeted us warmly and we exchanged official introductions of members of both her staff and our team.

Some of the areas we visit do not yet have access to electricity or running water, which make such a big difference to lifestyles. The mobile clinics take place either in a building, if available, or under the biggest shade-trees we can find.

Villagers gather through the morning waiting for hours to see one of the nurses, or ‘prescribers’ as they are known locally. Near Togo, villagers planned traditional drumming and dancing ceremonies to express their gratitude. Mosquito nets were provided this year to mothers with newborns. It was exciting to watch the music that they made and despite the midday heat, the dancing ceremonies energised everyone.

Before any medical clinic, we first obtain permission and agreement from the chief who has responsibility for the area. It is humbling and awesome to see the generosity from the tribal chiefs for our mobile clinics. Our group is often rewarded with goats, guinea fowl, chickens or peanuts as gifts. A few of us were hoping this year to obtain ‘freedom’ for one of the goats, however the group appetite ensured that the goat did not see the next sunrise. Our leader, Ted Wheeler, is always respectful of any chief’s generosity and uses all gifts as they were intended. Millet, corn and cassava root are staples of the diet in SSA.

Image:Your story - Ghana: Helping healthcare effortsI was very concerned about one young child this year whose under-arm temperature kept spiking above 102 degrees despite the liquid acetaminophen (paracetamol) we were able to get into his small, semi-conscious mouth. He was reported to be doing well later that week following the anti-malarial treatment we provided, but another young child passed away during an attempt at night to transmit him to the closest hospital.

Personal and team resilience is a goal for GSK, and I would have to say that those who live in SSA exemplify the quality of resilience. Each trip, I think of the enormous impact that vaccines for diseases such as malaria will make. It is impossible to overstate the suffering that could be alleviated with the products that our company is working daily to bring forward.

During a 17-hour bus ride, we found a remote petrol station with a very small selection of goods. I was excited to find GSK products among them. (And yes, I drank my share of Lucozade when I could get it…)

It is frustrating to see some continue to disparage the pharmaceutical industry, but I believe we are making progress in getting the message out about the true value of medicines. I am so proud to work for an organisation that makes a difference literally everywhere in the world.t.

Candy Bertini
Manager, EHM Disability Services


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