Maternal Health Channel: Pregnancy is Not a Disease, and Should Not be a Death Sentence

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By: Betty Blay Ackah, Maternal Health Channel Publicity, Creative Storm Networks

Approximately 2,700 women in Ghana die every year, and many thousands more suffer serious injuries and disabilities from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The problem looms very large, and permeates very deep and far in the society. It is clear that Ghana requires a response beyond what we have now, where benevolent individuals and institutions donating necessary materials to some districts. Vital as those donations are, they are simply not enough. We need a systematic approach to address not only the shortage of health facilities, but also to take on policy and socio-cultural issues in order to institutionalize effective healthcare delivery throughout the country.

As the late Major Quashigah, former Minister for Health, put it, “The paradox is that we know what is killing them and we know what to do.”

How do we do it then? The Maternal Health Channel television and radio series provides a national public platform to investigate the “how” in a methodical and productive way, while incorporating the voices of the marginalized into this discussion. Thus, each episode is a documentary/dramatized exposition of a true story, after which there is a studio discussion segment. This segment brings together diverse community members, experts in the field, policymakers, as well as some of the real people whose stories are dramatized in the series.

Some of the elements that distinguish the series include:

  • Dramatization: Although true stories, the retelling of these events are partly dramatized to reenact the tragedies faced by our true-life heroes.
  • Music: An important aspect of any communications project of this kind is to make sure it is steeped in the sociocultural context of the target community. We create authentic music which is particular to the communities from which the stories emanate. This is a highly creative act, as opposed to slapping on any music to convey any social context. For instance,  in the first episode based in Keta, we use ‘agbadza’ rhythms to introduce the communities and recreate one of the most popular funeral dirges to convey the feelings of the mourners at Charity’s funeral. Two of the music writers are Vico Mensah, keyboardist and bassist of the world famous Osibisa group, and Phillip O’Meara, a music writer for the BBC.
  • Narrative: The narrative emulates the best of our story-telling traditions, sometimes using reverse chronology.
  • The personalities: Ivy Prosper, one of the series’ hosts, is a known figure in the global modeling industry, and our approach to edutainment includes many other media figures. The series director, Dr. Kwesi Owusu, is well-known in Ghana as the award-winning director of Ama, and the music documentary Singing for Freedom.

Women should not have to die in the process of giving life: pregnancy is not a disease or death sentence.

The first three episodes of the Maternal Health Channel are online. To watch them, visit: Charity’s Story (Episode 1), Charity’s Story pt 2 (Episode 2) and Good News From Kpalbe (Episode 3).

To read more, visit the MHTF’s blog post on the series’ launch.