In September 2009, ICHA launched its first Health Worker Teaching Program in Elmina, Ghana. Over the next three years, groups of clinicians and educators visited Elmina every six months and provided intensive education for Ghanaian health workers about how to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Health workers received hundreds of hours of education about cardiovascular disease risk modification, medications, and lifestyle counseling. Didactic teaching was complemented by hands-on workshops and training as patients were cared for. Health workers were taught to check blood pressures and blood glucose levels, interpret lab values for kidney function, liver function, and cholesterol, and prescribe appropriate medications for diabetes and hypertension. Teaching about appropriate diet and exercise regimens was also given, and training was culturally tailored to account for regional eating habits, such as the use of high salt diets and palm oil. ICHA participated in community activities, led heart-healthy walks, and participated in a number of “World Heart Day” activities in Ghana.
Through a partnership with community leaders in Elmina, ICHA has worked with students and teachers to develop a senior secondary school club program and resource materials to promote community cardiovascular health. Following the model of similar programs that use students to teach peers about HIV/AIDS and other prevention issues, ICHA’s school club program mobilizes and empowers students to become civic leaders, educating their families and communities about the importance of good nutrition, exercise, and avoidance of tobacco, while also ensuring that healthy habits start young.