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TIPS ON MALARIA

  • HOW CAN MOSQUITOES BE CONTROLLED?

    Mosquitoes around the home can be reduced significantly by minimizing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding. Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways.

  • HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM MOSQUITO-BORN DISEASES?

    The best way is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.This can be accomplished using personal protecting  while outdoors when mosquitoes are present. Treated bed nets should be used sleeping. Mosquito repellent should be used when outdoor.

  • WHO ARE AT RISK?


    Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of getting malaria. Pregnant women are particularly at risk of malaria. Children under 5 years are at high risk of malaria.
     

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THE MAN BEHIND MCTA

By Theresa Owusu Ako

“Some are born great, Some achieve greatness. And some have greatness thrust upon them.”

But for this man, Fred Newton Binka, he has achieved greatness. To him he believes he's only accomplished part of his vision of becoming a renowned researcher.

Though he has already mentored and trained some of his colleagues to obtain their PHD's and Masters, his move now is to help train a critical mass of public health specialists and
scientists who will look at problems, design solutions, modify and monitor them and continue to help increase the life span of Ghanaians, especially children.

Professor Fred Binka is a symbol of success in medical research both at home and abroad. He is a Ghanaian trained physician with specialisation in Clinical Epidemiology and has an interest in malaria control.

The man who had his elementary education in northern Ghana, where infant and child mortality is as high as 150 per 1000 live births, found the right thing to do when he was posted to the north by Ghana's Ministry of Health to work after his training. He developed the Navorongo Health Research Centre up north with extreme difficulty and no assistance from anywhere.

In recounting some of his challenges in medical research, Prof Binka said: “I worked in the Navrongo Health Research Centre for ten years. You truly had to sit back and do everything
yourself, I never got one cedi from the Ghana government apart from my salary. I struggled to get the watchmen and labourers at least to be paid which never happened. But by the time I was leaving we had staff strength of 250 and they were all paid from project funds. “There was never a day you went to bed without thinking of where the next money would come from for this army of people to be paid. Though there was recognition that what we were doing was great, we couldn't just convince anyone to get support, and provide infrastructure. Despite these constraints, the Centre had success in its Vitamin A Supplementation Project which the government has adopted and is now implementing. The insecticide treated bed net trials and the Community Health and Family Planning (CHFP) now CHIPS which provides Health care at the doorstep of the community are also worthy examples.

The leading scientist in malaria research says he “smiles a bit and feels content that he is contributing to national health development when free bed n e t s a re m e n t i o n e d ,
because it's one of his passions that the vulnerable should be given free bed nets. He said “though many lives have been lost we're there after ten years”.

Professor Binka is however not happy that intellectuals and professionals are not consulted on certain issues of great importance to the nation. Well known on the international scene, Professor Binka influences strategies of governments, the World Health Organisation and others by making calls for investments that have current solutions.
No wonder the man was acknowledged by no mean a person than Bill Gates at the Seattle Forum on Malaria “We are now working with other committed investigators to expand this approach. Fred Binka and INDEPTH are crucial to this effort. One of their projects, the Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance, is replicating the Manhica effort by working to strengthen research sites in preparation for what we hope will be Phase 3 trials next year”.

Having had his secondary education at Kpando Secondary School, he entered University of Ghana Medical School after which he worked for a while. He continued at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (HADASA) and flew out with masters in Public Health in 1988. “I will say most of my research skills and some of the work I've done in my life were shaped by that university, it is a great university. I met really great minds; I have established long collaboration with some colleagues and published a couple of papers recently.” Professor Binka obtained his PHD in Epidemiology at the University of Basel, Switzerland. His research career began at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for about two and half years after which he worked in Navrongo for close to twelve years under the MOH. This, the Professor says brought him more closely to the people. “I've lived in the rural part and in the district; I think that's important, that's what makes you; you live close to where the problems are, try to find solutions to them then after that life becomes very great.”

From Navrongo he moved on to Geneva, a situation the Professor describes as too much of a contrast. In Geneva, working with the WHO he was first a member of the Roll Back malaria team and later the Desk Person for Malaria in Europe where he traveled extensively. He returned to Ghana after two years and joined the School of Public Health,
University of Ghana with the aim of integrating research centre ideas but could not anchor it. The Good Book says all things work together for our good and there is an appointed time for everything.

As has been his wish Professor Binka now heads the School of Public Health as the Dean. He is also Project Manager of the Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance (MCTA), which is the baby of INDEPTH Network and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. MCTA facilitates development of sufficient capacity in Africa to conduct (Good Clinical Practice) clinical trials for malaria vaccine and drug interventions. It also supports, strengthens, mentors and networks trial sites to facilitate their progression toward self-sustaining clinical research centres. MCTA has nine sites in Africa. They are Ghana,
Nigeria, Gabon Gambia, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

His major collaborators are the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Swiss Tropical Institute and many other institutions in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Personalities include the late Dr. F.C. Grant, a former Director of Noguchi Memorial Institute, Professor Peter Smith of the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Professor Marcel Tanner of the Swiss Tropical Institute.

Professor Binka, is often referred to as a globe trotter because he loves to expand his horizon in the very challenging medical field. He shifted from the curative to preventive medicine because he says it is better to prevent especially a disease from occurring than curing it. He noted that though there is a lot of ignorance, when it comes to people's health, there is also a lot of good will if people are helped to take the right decisions and urged on.

“I can not be a politician”. This was the quick answer to the question on his political ambition. He however wants more people to get involved in politics because it has been left in the hands of a few for quite some time, adding: people should research into issues.

Prof. Binka joined the Young Pioneer in his infancy and shares the vision of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He particularly extols the educational policy of Ghana's first President which absorbed the poor in school.

His hobbies are - squash, hockey, football, reading. He played hockey at the University. He also enjoys going out to chat with people. Prof. Binka generates his own power from solar and the wind mill. This underlines his accolade as a man of great ideas.

For a man of international repute with competing time, combining work with family life is not easy”. “It's very very tough, sometimes I'd even had to prescribe medicine for my children on phone”
 

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