Envoy, experts canvass better primary healthcare policy
• As Ambode woos investors to Lagos health park
Leveraging on the success of preventive healthcare in Finland, an array of health practitioners have called for an overhaul of the Nigerian health system to tackle Non-communicable disease that is ravaging the country.
Specifically, the practitioners called on the government to make primary health care functional, enhance it to drive preventive health and improve funding for health researches and infrastructural development.
Among those that made this called, at a health and wellness meeting organised by the Finland Embassy in Nigeria, are: Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria, Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury; Nigerian ambassador to the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Executive Director of Nigerian Heart Foundation, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye; Research Professor, National Institute of Wealth and Welfare, Finland, Dr. Pekka Jousilahti; Dr. Tosin Ajayi; Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), former Director General (DG) Prof. Oni Idigbe and so on.
Meanwhile, governor Akinwunmi Ambode has urged investors to partner with the state government to build the state-of-the-art specialist health park. Ambode said the multi-billion naira worth of investment would improve health status of Lagosians and discourage medical tourism.
Finnish envoy to Nigeria, Suomela-Chowdhury, said her home country of about 5.3m population was able to achieve the current health status due to collective effort to promote health from the grassroots.
She added that it was not magically, but steadily built by the people over several decades till Finland could now boast of 80 years life expectancy (from 35 years in 1750).
Reiterating a pledge she had earlier made during a familiarization visit of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, the envoy said that Finland and Nigeria in the coming days would have a lot to share in terms of expertise, focusing on the eradication of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
Jousilhati noted that Finland far back in the 1930s used to have one of the worst records of child mortality in Europe. But with significant improvement in universal maternal and child health, immunization coverage among others, the country is now one of the safest countries to be a child.
The European country, he said, boasts of the lowest rate of NCDs in the world for reasons not unconnected with massive reduction in risk factors and improved wellness among the people.
For instance, in the last forty years, smoking reduced from 55 to about 30 per cent; serum cholesterol reduced from 7mmol/L to 5.2mmoI/L among people of 35 – 59 years; butter/vegetable oil intake reduced from 85 to 20 per cent and salt intake dropped from 12 – 8.9gramms and 8 – 6.5 gramms in men and female respectively.
Jousilhati said that the trends in health outcomes shows the link between changes in diet/ lifestyle and life expectancy, adding that without reduction of risk factors, we cannot reduce burden of NCD.
Akinroye said that Nigeria indeed have a lot to learn from Finland to improve the current state of health. He said going by what Finland has done, Nigeria only need to start somewhere and it should be by focusing on the primary healthcare level. The primary healthcare must be seriously focused and directly funded by the government to turn it, he said.
“Again too, the people must also be health conscious and taking responsibility. What Finland did is by the mass-movement of the people who wanted things to turn round. People only need to push the government and the policy will work where there is the political will.”
He added that while there are PHCs nationwide, they are still deficient in service capacity because they are not properly funded. “And you know that if each of the PHCs in the local councils are working, the people don’t need to go to the secondary or tertiary levels of care.
Once the PHCs are functional, then we will have all these personnel available.”
Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gambari, submitted that Nigeria must begin to put emphasis on the quality of life of the citizenry, with individuals also taking responsibility for their own wellness.
Gambari said that the ranking of a nation is not by the size of its population or its military might, but by the quality of life of its populace.
Ambode, who was represented at the event by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Wealth Creation (Lagos Global), Arinola Odulana, said that Lagos welcomes interested investors that are ready to partner with the state on any specialty of medicine.
He said that the state government was unrelenting on providing better health and well-being for the populace.