Vanguard (Lagos)

5 December 2012

Nigeria: Govt Must Promote Health Education for National Devt - Prof Odusanya

Saddened by the alarming death toll recorded in the country due to diseases such as typhoid fever, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria, poliomyelitis, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) amongst others, the need for government at all levels to engender public health education for the masses has been canvassed.

An academic, Prof. Olumuyiwa Odusanya made this call while delivering the 48th Inaugural Lecture Series of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo.

In his paper entitled: "Health in the Interest of the Public," the Provost of Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) opined that ignorance brought about by poverty must be ameliorated by government, through constant sensitization of the masses, if the fight against diseases leading to high death tolls must be successful.

Prof. Odusanya said: "The strategies for tackling major health problems are not mutually exclusive but show the need to prioritize and select strategies that are in the best interest of the community and not the convenience of the State or health system.

The health system must become an advocate for the health of the public and the nation needs to realize that the health of the public is a key to its socio-economic development."

The Professor of Community Health & Primary Health Care in his 45-minute interactive lecture further explained that for the health sector to be driven towards the judicious benefit of the masses, government and other stakeholders must ensure that the health of the public is promoted through "health education, qualitative and quantitative service improvement and advocacy for healthy public policies.

Buttressing the point, he quizzed: "For example, typhoid fever is an infectious disease transmitted through contaminated food and water. It is curable with the use of antibiotics. Is it much cheaper to provide safe potable water to all citizens and eliminate the disease than to allow the people become ill, treat them with expensive antibiotics that may not always be affordable?"

As the need for a Universal Health Coverage (UCH) that will see every Nigerian get health-care services without incurring financial hardship becomes expedient, the don also advocated the need for government to sensitize the citizens on getting health insurance.

He said: "May I ask, how many Nigerians have a health insurance? The inability of having a ready source of payment often delays presentation to hospital or delays payment for services and hinders timely intervention among the poor. Evidence suggests that broader health coverage generally leads to better access to necessary and improved population health, particularly for the poor."

In achieving the UHC, he suggested that "a political process driven by a variety of social forces to create public programmes or regulations that expand access to care, improve equity and pool financial risk; growth in incomes and a concomitant rise in health spending which buys more health services for more people; and an increase in the share of health spending that is pooled rather than paid out-of-pocket by household," adding, "all countries that have achieved UHC have done so with extensive government involvement (policy) in financing, regulations and sometimes direct provision of health services."

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