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Childhood cancers, sickle cell treatment now covered by NHIS, says Bawumia

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Treatments for childhood cancers, as well as the cost of Hydroxyurea, an essential drug for the treatment of sickle cell anaemia, are now covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia has announced.

Announcing this on Thursday (25 August 2022) in Accra, Bawumia said reimbursement of childhood cancers under NHIS became effective 1 July 2022, and plans are far advanced to add treatment for other forms of cancer to the list of ailments covered by NHIS.

“We have started with four cancers amongst children for now but we are determined to expand in due course. As we know, incremental improvement is always the way and exponential impact should not be compromised when it comes to healthcare.

“Our children’s present and future can only be secured if all the factors that threaten their existence and quality of life are eliminated. We are determined to make it happen and we should not relent,” he said.

“A diagnosis of cancer often appears to be a death sentence, affecting not just the subject but the rest of the family and entire community, unless well-structured and well-resourced interventions are at play to curb the burden. In many developing countries, cancer is on the rise and its consequent effect on economies, is and will be grave, if nothing is done to control it,” he said.

He added: “Where countries have attempted to curb it, the perception of acutely exorbitant costs of management have meant that many under-resourced countries have often avoided opening the Pandora’s Box for fear of being unable to manage those costs. Childhood cancers in particular have shown significant success rates in achieving desired management outcomes and often at manageable costs.

“I am glad that we, as a nation, are putting our children first and protecting them and their dreams. Sometimes it is good to look at the value of investments and not just the cost.”

Dr Bawumia enjoined all stakeholders to bring their resources to the table to make the programme both successful and sustainable, pointing out that “For most things to be sustained funding is required: good funding streams enable projects to be sustained and this is same in childhood cancers and other disease areas. It requires us to be collectively innovative in proffering solutions and investing in it and all other factors that will ensure the best outcomes.

“For a health project such as this great childhood cancer services to continue, all stakeholders need to bring their resources to the table – expertise, awareness creation, early detection, treatment etc should be made available. The successful outcomes of provision of these is what will keep things sustained. Seeing that our children are being diagnosed early and treated and recovering will certainly encourage the NHIA and all other partners to continue to fund the services. We all have a role to play.”

Collaboration, data, technology

Highlighting the importance of technology, effective collaboration and data in health management, Dr Bawumia noted that there are multiple players in healthcare that require data for valuable investments, with health data actually generating income for some countries.

“Clinical trials, research, budgeting, all require data. But data is not valuable if it is just that, and not useful. I will encourage us to prioritize data capture related to childhood cancers and other cancers to ensure that investments in healthcare are well informed. For a middle-income country, every cedi we spend must be well thought through and data will enable us to so.

“Reducing wastage is a key means of enabling that efficiency we desire which will ultimately support the sustainability of this journey we have embarked on…

“It will be key for us to have standard platforms across private and public sector that enable easy access and top-quality data that inform work going forward. Extraction of population level data and its analysis will enable favourable investment and development of strategies that are directly impactful to our people”.

The desire to ensure a greater geographical spread of access to healthcare, especially for persons who require specialist care and medication, was the reason behind initiatives such as One Constituency One Ambulance, Medical drones for the delivery of essential medical supplies and blood, and the Agenda 111 projects, which would see to the construction of District Hospitals in all districts without one, as well as the construction and or upgrading of regional hospitals across the country, he indicated

“Government is also showing leadership and keen commitment to addressing geographical access limitations through Agenda 111 and we are keen to drive this and make it reality. In these facilities that will be set up, we will be looking at providing all relevant and priority services and will look at how we could also aid improved cancer control including childhood cancers in Ghana,” he said.

Vice President Bawumia commended the First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the minister and ministry of health, the board chair of NHIA and his team, the CEO of NHIA, World Child Cancer, Roche and all collaborators for helping to achieve this life saving initiative.

“What we have achieved here is no mean feat and we should not underestimate it,” he said.

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Indonesia Passes New Law To Criminalize Sex Outside Of Marriage

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GETTY There were protests against the new code on Monday

Indonesian lawmakers passed a sweeping new criminal code on Tuesday that criminalizes sex outside marriage, as part of a tranche of changes that critics say threaten human rights and freedoms in the Southeast Asian country.

The new code, which also applies to foreign residents and tourists, bans cohabitation before marriage, apostasy, and provides punishments for insulting the president or expressing views counter to the national ideology.

“All have agreed to ratify the (draft changes) into law,” said lawmaker Bambang Wuryanto, who led the parliamentary commission in charge of revising the colonial-era code. “The old code belongs to Dutch heritage … and is no longer relevant.”

The world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has seen a rise in religious conservatism in recent years. Strict Islamic laws are already enforced in parts of the country, including the semi-autonomous Aceh province, where alcohol and gambling are banned. Public floggings also take place in the region for a range of offences including homosexuality and adultery.

A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but was postponed after nationwide protests prompted Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene. In a televised address at the time, Widodo said he decided to delay the vote after “seriously considering feedback from different parties who feel objections on some substantial content of the criminal code.”

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote, rights groups and critics warned that the new code would “disproportionately impact women” and further curtail human rights and freedoms in the country of more than 270 million people.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia Researcher Andreas Harsono said the laws are “a setback for already declining religious freedom in Indonesia,” warning that “non-believers could be prosecuted and jailed.”

“The danger of oppressive laws is not that they’ll be broadly applied, it’s that they provide an avenue for selective enforcement,” he said.

Under the laws, sex outside marriage carries a potential one-year prison term, and the crime of blasphemy, already on Indonesia’s books, could now lead to a five-year prison sentence.

Rahmat Purnama, from the University of Indonesia’s law faculty, said the laws would be implemented after a transitional period of three years.

Source: CNN

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Elon Musk Hopes to Test a Brain Implant in Humans Next Year

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In this still image from the Neuralink presentation video on YouTube, a presenter, lower left, described how a monkey used a wireless transmitter to “type” characters on a keyboard.Credit...Neuralink

Neuralink, the startup Elon Musk founded to link our brains directly to computers, showed progress Wednesday in two medical areas: helping blind people to see and helping people with spinal cord injuries to walk or use their hands.

The company, one of five that Musk leads, is working on technology to drop thousands of electrodes thinner than a hair into the outer surface of human brains. Each electrode is a tiny wire connected to a battery-powered, remotely recharged, quarter-sized chip package that’s embedded into a spot that once held a circle of skull. The chip, called the N1, communicates wirelessly with the outside world.

The technology is still far from the initial medical uses, much less Musk’s ultimate vision of using Neuralink to hang out with superintelligent AIs. But the company is making significant progress, including applying with the Food and Drug Administration to begin human trials it hopes to start within six months, the company said at a “show and tell” event lasting more than two hours.

“Our goal will be to turn the lights on for someone who’s spent decades living in the dark,” said Neuralink researcher Dan Adams, who’s working on the effort to repackage camera data into a brain-compatible format and pipe it directly to the visual cortex.

Musk has some cred when it comes to revolutionary tech. His electric-vehicle company Tesla is profoundly changing cars and his SpaceX outfit is transforming space access with reusable rockets. His reputation as a tech genius has taken a beating, though, with the chaos at Twitter after his $44 billion acquisition. Musk’s Boring Company, which aims to revamp auto transportation with tunnels, also hasn’t lived up to its promises yet.

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US President Joe Biden turns 80 Today: New Generation’ of Democratic Leaders Takes Control in Congress

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President Joe Biden will celebrate his 80th birthday on Sunday, marking the first time a sitting president has reached that milestone while in office and fueling speculation about how his advancing age will affect his political future.

Biden — who was the oldest person to assume the presidency in January 2021, just 61 days after his 78th birthday — has said he intends to make another White House bid, even as his age-adjacent peers, including 82-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have made the decision to step away from leadership in order to make way for a younger generation.

“My intention is that I will run again. But I’m a great respecter of fate and this is ultimately a family decision. I think everybody wants me to run but we’re going to have discussions about it. And I don’t feel any hurry one way or the other to make that judgment.” he said last week, after helming what many say is the most successful midterm election for a sitting president’s party in decades, though noting that those results would not have an impact on his decision to run again.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden greets guests before speaking at an event at the White House complex, Nov. 18, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Biden is the oldest person to serve as commander in chief in the nation’s history. Should he seek reelection in 2024 and win, the president would be 86 by the end of his second term. He has said he’ll talk over his future with his wife and the rest of his family over the holidays.

Biden has said he is hoping that he and his wife “get a little time to actually sneak away for a week around between Christmas and Thanksgiving” and that his decision to run for reelection will likely “be early next year we make that judgment.”

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