Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins Delivers Inaugural Lecture

Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins

Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins, Professor of Social Psychology and the Vice-Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Ghana, has delivered her inaugural lecture on the topic: “Curing Our Ills: The Psychology of Chronic Disease Risk, Experience and Care in Africa”. The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, chaired the Inaugural Lecture, the eighth for the second semester of the 2015/16 academic year.

Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins shared important insights about Ghanaian and African healthcare systems, as relating to chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) like hypertension and diabetes and other major chronic diseases, which she noted, are on the rise.

The lecture focused extensively on the multi-level challenges facing healthcare in Ghana; the limitations of a clinical approach to structural problems; and the importance of prevention and community-based interventions. It advocated a conscientious attitude change and a critical interdisciplinary approach to markedly reduce the disease burden of NCDs in Ghana and across the continent.

Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins in her presentation noted that the incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is a global challenge. She indicated that in Ghana and across the continent, the prevalence of cases such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases are largely attributed to biological, social and structural factors. She revealed that these factors encompass family history, lifestyle, peer effects and the political economy of global health. She shared perspectives on the possible contraction of these diseases, citing risk factors as including unhealthy eating, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol overconsumption and smoking.

She elaborated further that people living with chronic conditions experience many disruptions especially at the early stages of diagnosis before adjusting to their circumstances. These disruptions she noted are physical (medical complications), psychological (depression), material (impoverishment), social (stigma), and spiritual (struggles with faith and trust). And have an impact on family life and resources.

She maintained that while chronic conditions cannot be cured, many sufferers hope for a cure, adding that this optimism drives them to seek healthcare across different sectors of Ghana’s vibrant pluralistic health system. She however noted that when ‘hope for a cure’ meets ‘claims to cure’ within the herbalist and faith healing sectors, the outcomes for individuals and their families can be catastrophic.

Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins emphasized that the long term and costly nature of NCDs has major implications for individuals, communities, health systems and governments. She called on researchers, practitioners, policymakers, funders and development partners to define problems and develop solutions to health problems, thereby setting the broader structural framework in which to manage illnesses.

She drew concrete responses within Ghana and from countries within and outside Africa that have implemented successful NCD interventions. She shared a number of such strategies and advised that individuals keep a routine check to know their status, improve on their diet, manage their weight through exercising, and desist from alcohol intake and smoking.

In his remarks as Chairman, the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Ernest Aryeetey emphasized the importance of adopting an interdisciplinary approach to tackle the burden of NCDs across the continent. He appreciated the works of Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins and noted that her research has greatly influenced policy and empowered individuals as well as communities. He indicated that ailments are an unavoidable part of human life particularly due to the environment in which one lives, and a person’s socio-economic status as well as social networks, adding that a choice has to be made to either look for cure or learn to manage a disease as best as one can. He entreated the general public to live healthy lifestyles, as that is a critical factor in safeguarding the burden of NCDs.

Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor

Earlier in her welcome remarks, the Registrar of the University, Mrs. Mercy Haizel-Ashia noted that inaugural lectures represents an essential component of the University’s public events programming, and helps to create a wider awareness of the latest developments in the academic disciplines of the University.

She noted that every academic who achieves the highest rank in his or her career in the University of Ghana, is expected to deliver an inaugural lecture. This she said, offers the University an opportunity to recognize and showcase the academic achievements of its staff, as well as enable the Professor to celebrate an important personal milestone with family and friends, and share with colleagues within and outside the College about their research works.

The Lecture was attended by Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Provosts, Deans, Directors, and members of the University community. Also present were colleagues, students, family members and friends of the lecturer, and the general public.

A cross-section of the audience at the lecture

There were a number of presentations made to Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins to congratulate her.

Prior to Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins’ inaugural lecture, a week-long exhibition of her scholarly works was held at the Balme Library. The exhibition centered on her research on; Living with diabetes in rural and urban Ghana: a critical social psychological examination of illness action and scope for intervention; Strengthening quality and continuity of diabetes care in rural Ghana: a critical social psychological approach; Developing Effective Chronic Disease Prevention in Africa: Insights from Ghana and Cameroon; Health and Healthcare Financing in Ghana, 1957-2017; among several other publications.

Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins being assisted by her husband to cut a ribbon to open the exhibition of her scholarly works. With them is Prof. Samuel Agyei-Mensah, Provost of the College of Humanities

Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins speaking to Officials and guests about her exhibited works.

One more Inaugural has been lined up for this semester.  Please click here to access details.

Presentation from the College of Humanities

Presentation from the School of Graduate Studies

Presentation from the Regional Institute for Population Studies

Presentation from the Department of Psychology

Presentation from the Centre for Social policy Studies

Presentation from former students and mentees

Presentation form the Readers Project Editorial Committee


Presentations from family members- Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins with her mother (left) and with her husband (right)