July 16, 2012

Arriving in Ghana

Micah Johnson,
2012 GHLI Fellow

My time in Ghana has been great so far, in terms of both working and living. A major portion of my work has dealt with the newly passed Mental Health Act, as well as its Legislative Instrument (the framework that defines how the law will be implemented). The morning after I arrived I traveled to Pantang Psychiatric Hospital (about an hour outside of Accra) for a meeting of the Mental Health Technical Committee regarding the drafting of the Legislative Instrument. What struck me most about the meeting was the diversity of people around the table all working together on this crucial project—not just professional policymakers, but also clinicians, researchers, hospital administrators, heads of NGOs, professors, and politicians. It was a clear reminder of just how many stakeholders it takes to effect system-wide changes. I also found the scene very relevant to my own aspirations—in my career I hope to combine clinical practice with involvement in health policy. I couldn’t help but think that these were the types of efforts I could see myself contributing to throughout my career.

One important lesson I have learned at the GHLI conference, through my involvement with the drafting of the Legislative Instrument and other experiences in-country, is that even when a law is on the books, a tremendous amount of work remains in order to translate the words on the page into reality on the ground.

There’s so much more I could say about mental health in Ghana and the work I’ve been doing, but I should also briefly mention some of my other adventures. After a visit to Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital I had time to do some exploring in the Central Region of the country. Among other things, I had a chance to see some of Ghana’s natural beauty at Kakum National Park. I went on the famous canopy walk, which gives a spectacular view of the rainforest from walkways over 130 feet high. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here!

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