Pictured above: Dr. Maame Amo-Addae (third from left), Dr. Linda Vanotoo (fourth from left) and several other R4D Ghana team members hosted Managing Director Tanya Jones (second from left) and CEO Gina Lagomarsino (far right) in Accra in August, 2023. Other team members pictured include Paulina Adjei (far left), and Chris Atim (second from right).
[Editor’s Note: Dr. Maame Amo-Addae recently joined R4D as our new Ghana country director. As country director and a member of R4D’s senior program leadership group, she will oversee all aspects of R4D’s work in Ghana and ensure high-quality impactful programs that are responsive to the country’s priorities. Dr. Amo-Addae is stepping into this role as Dr. Linda Vanotoo, who previously served as Ghana country director, becomes R4D’s senior program director of community and primary health care. The two women recently sat down to discuss the transition.]
Getting to know Dr. Amo-Addae and Dr. Vanotoo
Linda: First, I want to say how glad I am that you decided to join Results for Development (R4D) as the new country director for Ghana. I’ve been with R4D for over three and a half years now, and I love working here. I know you will too. I am confident that you will make a positive contribution given your background.
We’ve known each other for 20 years and worked together in the Western Region of Ghana for about 10 years, so I know you well. But maybe you can tell our R4D blog readers a little about yourself?
Maame: Thanks for the warm welcome, Linda. I am happy to be here.
A little about myself – I am a medical epidemiologist by professional training, also a mother of four (an important part of me). In my career which spans now over 20 years, I have worked in Ghana and Liberia, in progressively senior leadership positions. I enjoy teamwork and team-building activities, and I love to learn from and positively influence others. In my leisure time, I watch movies and like to go sight-seeing.
And now that I’m here at R4D, I’m excited to be taking on the country director role. But I also feel I have a tough act to follow, since this was your role previously and you have built a strong team and close working relationships with government and development partners in Ghana. I’ve been so impressed by how R4D is a key thought partner to Ghana’s National Health Insurance Authority to improve how health financing works, the Ghana Health Service for improving primary health care, the Health Facilities Regulatory Authority to ensure quality of health care, and of course the Ministry of Health for improved health information management and stewardship of all its Agencies. All in partnership with USAID and other donors. I hope I can keep growing that holistic effort and the trust that these partners have in our team.
Do you have any advice for me? What are the challenges and opportunities in Ghana?
Advice, opportunities and challenges
Linda: It is a pleasure for me to hand over to you as the country director for R4D Ghana. I know you will excel with all the experience you have gained over the years working in the health sector.
My first advice is that it is very important that you make time for some leisure, because it is a busy, fast-paced role. But it is also gratifying.
The main challenge I see, is how to work with the Ghanaian leaders we aim to support. They are very busy and always have a lot on their plates. They also work with many partners like R4D, so they have to “share” their time. We must be tactful while engaging them frequently and staying focused on being responsive to their priorities. Our goal is always to support them and help them succeed. Sometimes that means we have to gently push back on donor priorities — but that is a key value of R4D’s, we center the change agent partners in everything we do. That’s something I have really appreciated about working at R4D, especially as a former change agent myself!
I see a lot of opportunities in Ghana in the health, education and nutrition sectors. We have so much to build on, including the great work of the Health Systems Strengthening Accelerator (Accelerator) to help Ghana achieve universal health coverage. Education technology is gaining traction in schools, so we can look at opportunities that build on R4D’s work as a lead partner on EdTech Hub — an initiative to generate and apply evidence about what works when it comes to using technology to accelerate teaching and learning in schools. And under the USAID Advancing Nutrition project, R4D is working in collaboration with JSI and the National Development Planning Commission to support district assemblies and district nutrition coordination committees in 17 districts in Northern Ghana to strengthen decision-making on program planning, financing, resource mobilization, advocacy and implementation.
Maame: Thanks, Linda. That’s really helpful. Can you also share a little about your new role at R4D?
Linda: Yes! I am very excited to be R4D’s senior program director leading R4D’s work to advance community and primary health care, and ultimately universal health coverage. I’m especially passionate about community health workforce issues. The Accelerator is working with countries to identify how they can improve recruitment, training, adequate and timely remuneration, equipping, financing, and governance of community health workers (CHWs). And in the longer term, we know that community health workers need to be integrated into the formal health system and continue to grow with improved models of primary health care, just as we’ve been working on in Ghana.
Underpinning all these is innovation and technology to improve efficiency. We have done a global analysis of these areas and developed briefs on these topics which countries can use as they continue to improve their systems to enhance the work of the CHWs.
Maame: Congratulations! That’s exciting. I hope we’ll be able to work together. Do you foresee any opportunities?
Linda: Yes, I see many opportunities. As you know, through the Accelerator and earlier Systems for Health project, R4D has been working with the Ghana Health Service to scale up an innovative network-based approach to primary care across Ghana after supporting a successful pilot in the Volta region. These networks rely heavily on community-based interventions, but a lot more can be done to enhance the work of community health nurses (CHNs) and other frontline health workers. For example, a gap analysis would be helpful, in addition to a greater focus on capacity development of frontline health workers who are working on specific health issues, such as malaria, HIV, TB, non-communicable diseases, among others. I also see opportunities to document what is going well in Ghana and share this with other countries.
I know you’re still new to your role, but how is it going so far? What opportunities do you see?
Maame: It’s going well, and so much has happened already! I have learned a lot about the amazing people, systems, remarkable achievements, and ongoing business of R4D. But I suspect there is probably even more to learn.
What has struck me in the relatively short time I have been here is the high quality of all R4D’s outputs and products. For example, we played a major role in helping the Ministry of Health define its Essential Health Services Package, we’ve supported the rollout of new digital platforms and training modules that allow the regulatory agency (HeFRA) to conduct facility inspections and accreditation more efficiently. I have also been pleased to see R4D’s audio-visual support to the Ministry of Health and facilitation of Ghana’s annual health sector performance summit as a hybrid (online and in person) event has led to new community and district level voices being brought into that important process.
However, I also see opportunities to enhance the sustainability of our impact through deliberate mentoring and capacity-building of the change agents we work with.
Linda: I agree. That’s an important area to focus on.
Well, it’s been enjoyable to take this time to chat and to introduce you to our wonderful community at R4D. We have so many great partners and supporters, I know they will be pleased to get to know you and follow our work in Ghana.
Maame: Yes, it has been nice. Everyone is so welcoming. I look forward to carrying R4D’s work and mission forward.