She believes that the health of a population is integral to its sustainable development. It is for this reason that Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah is interested in health system strengthening and the implementation of evidence-based policies in innovative ways.
Her leadership philosophy is striving for self-improvement and helping others do same, which she sees as a responsibility to inspire others to do their best.
Dr Appiah, who is a Physician and Senior Public Health Specialist, is currently the Executive Director of the National Population Council (NPC) of Ghana.
Prior to assuming that role, Dr Appiah was the Director of Health Services for the Ledzokuku-Krowor Municipality (LEKMA) since its inception in 2008. The assembly was at that time established to help curb the many health challenges in the municipality, and key among them was low Tuberculosis (TB) case detection despite the documented high incidence and prevalence rates.
According to her, majority of the over 350,000 inhabitants in the municipality had as their first port of call the numerous chemical and few pharmacy shops; thus, she decided to train all the shop attendants in TB case detection using a simple screening tool, thereby increasing TB case detection in the municipality.
This was because public health services were mainly delivered only in public health facilities despite the fact that the private health facilities outnumbered public ones.
At the NPC, she believes that pregnancy should be wanted and every child cherished and nurtured to be a productive and proud citizen. That, she said, was the only way the nation could develop since the quality of human resource was key for manufacturing durable assets.
During this period, she built genuine rapport and collaboration with all facilities, including the private healthcare providers, local, regional, national communities and professionals at all organisational levels.
She served in this capacity until November 2016 when she was offered an appointment as the Executive Director of the NPC. She has a passion for population and reproductive health, with particular emphasis on family planning, HIV and nutrition.
Dr Appiah’s story
Dr Appiah is a results-driven and accomplished Medical and Public Health Professional with over 20 years of relevant experience in health system management, community health development, organisation management and strategic planning.
She is highly skilled in directing teams in the delivery of exceptional healthcare and public health services and advancement of top-level objectives. She has proven her expertise in the development of healthcare reforms, as well as community health frameworks and planning.
As the Executive Director of the NPC, “I advise the Government of Ghana on effective population management to enable the country to achieve and maintain a level of population growth which is consistent with national development objectives in order to improve the quality of life for the populace.”
Soaring population and health issues
According to Dr Appiah, almost a quarter of the children in the Volta Region get pregnant during their teens, adding that the Volta and Central regions have teenage pregnancy rates of 22 and 21 per cent respectively.
Recently, in an interaction with Rev. Joyce Aryee on the effects of and solutions to the soaring population and reproductive health issues in Ghana, she said: “Teenage pregnancy in the developed world is less than two per cent; however, our teenage pregnancy rate is 14 per cent nationwide.”
Dr Appiah explained that the standard Replacement Level Fertility rate (which is the total fertility rate — the average number of children born per woman—at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration) is 2.1, but the country has 6.4.
In developed countries, sub-replacement fertility is any rate below approximately 2.1 children born per woman, but the threshold can be as high as 3.4 in some developing countries because of higher mortality rates. Taken globally, the total fertility rate at replacement was 2.33 children per woman, which is translated as two children per woman to replace the parents, plus a “third of a child” to make up for the higher probability of boys born and mortality prior to the end of their fertile life.
“The population structure is important for economic development,” she said, stressing that the escalating nature of the country’s population contributed to the high incidence of poverty among majority of the citizenry.
The main problem she has always blamed on early pregnancies, too close pregnancies, too many and too many late pregnancies which she said is increasing maternal mortality and morbidities and making it difficult for Ghana’s socio economic development.???
“With limited resources, high fertility makes it difficult for families to adequately feed, clothe, house, educate and provide medical care for children, and this greatly undermines savings,” she opined.
Dr Appiah indicated that although Ghana was among the earliest African countries to adopt a comprehensive population policy in 1969 and had since been working hard to manage its population growth, not much had been achieved in controlling the country’s population.
The 1969 Population Policy was aimed at reducing the country’s high population growth rate which between 1960 and 1970 was 2.4 per annum.
The 1969 Population Policy, on the theme: “Population Planning for National Progress and Prosperity,” was last reviewed in 1994 to enable the government to accelerate the pace of economic modernisation and improve the quality of life of Ghanaians.
Dr Appiah noted that the high population growth rate repudiated the country’s effort at sustainable economic development, eradication of poverty and the realisation of the government’s vision of ensuring quality life for Ghanaians as the government alone could not provide for the needs of all citizens.
Dr Appiah expressed worry that the country would continue to suffer economic setbacks if the high population growth rate was not controlled.
She said many developed countries had taken keen interest in controlling their population in line with their economic capabilities.
According to her, some countries, including Senegal, had started taking key steps such as family planning as part of measures to control their population.
She compared Ghana’s population which was about 6.7 million in the 1960s and about 29 million in 2017 with 39 per cent aged between zero and 14, with that of Spain which had about 30.5 million in the 1960s and about 46.4 million in 2017 with 15 per cent aged between zero and 14, adding that Spain did not even double its population but Ghana had multiplied over four times within the same period, and in this case with a high youthful population.
She explained that it roughly meant that while over 40 million adults in Spain were caring for six million children, in Ghana 17 million adults were caring for 11 million children, ???which is stress the economy assuming both countries have comparable incomes.???
She, therefore, called on religious leaders, as well as politicians, traditional rulers and opinion leaders to preach family planning in their messages to their followers, arguing that the huge population growth was responsible for the poor state of most of the developing countries, including Ghana.
Dr Appiah is a product of OLA girls in Ho where she had her O” level and Achimota School where she pursued her A” level. She preceded to Donetsk Medical School in Ukraine and pursued a Medical Degree (MD). In addition, she holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Ghana.
Dr Appiah is a Humphrey Fellow and an alumnus of the Emory University Atlanta. Currently, she is the Vice-President of Alumni Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Ghana and a former board member of the Institute of Directors Ghana. Furthermore, she is a member of many professional organisations, including the Ghana Medical Association and the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.
She is also a board member of the Ghana Aids Commission and Partners in Population and Development.
For her dedicated service, Dr Appiah has won several awards and her municipality was adjudged the Best Performing Health Directorate in 2010 in the Greater Accra Region among 16 directorates.
She also won grants from USAID in 2011 and 2013 for the implementation of two performance-based financing projects meant to expand geographical access to long-term family planning methods.
In 2016, she won the coveted competitive grant from the Institute of International Education to educate post-partum women through mobile phones and a Nobles International Award from the West African Nobles Forum.
Besides, in 2017, she was ranked among top 60 corporate women leaders in Ghana by The African Network of Entrepreneurs.
On March 20, 2018, she was ranked among 50 women in business and governance by the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development (CELD), in conjunction with the Amazon’s Watch Magazine at the African Women Forum.
At present, she is focusing on assessing reasons for the low uptake of long acting reversible post-partum family planning in Ghana.
Dr Appiah grew up in a polygamous family with other offspring of her father. Her mum, Madam Susana Kankam, was a middle school teacher and now a retired head teacher of the Alago Cluster of Schools. She was the sole guardian of her and two other siblings, of which she is the second.
She is married and has three girls: Suzie Owuradua Aidoo, 29 years, Tracy Asomani-Wiafe, 22 years, both graduates and working, and Sharon Asomani-Wiafe, 19 years and currently in her third year at the Ashesi University.