The Nigerian government needs to train more field epidemiologists to be able to face the daunting challenge of disease outbreaks in the country, an official from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, Bolu Omotayo, has said.
Mrs Omotayo made this appeal at the 4th Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP) Annual Scientific Conference in Abuja.
Field epidemiologists are health professionals who work at the forefront of disease surveillance, response, and control. They are often the backbone of disease control during outbreaks of infectious diseases in any country.
Mrs Omotayo urged the government to establish a standard health institution where field epidemiologists can be trained in order to strengthen the health security of the nation.
She said both material and human resources are needed for disease control as health security transcends borders and the country needs to be always prepared to tackle diseases outbreaks.
The NCDC/NFELTP conference attracts epidemiologists from around the world. During the conference, the experts assess the impact of the profession on public health and outbreak response in Nigeria and globally.
The theme for the conference was: "Applied Epidemiology: Providing Evidence for Public Health Action".
Mrs Omotayo also pleaded with the government to institutionalise the training as a means of achieving health security for the nation.
"There is room for improvement. The US - CDC has been supporting the country in field epidemiology training. With the numerous outbreaks in Nigeria, there is an opportunity to learn. But sustainability has become a big issue. Resources are also needed," she said.
Giving the keynote address, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, said field epidemiologists play a very crucial role in the interruption of wild poliovirus and in the Ebola virus in the country.
Executive director Faisal Shuaib giving the keynote address
He said Nigeria needs to stop the politics in the health space and give credence to appropriate professions.
Mr Shuaib said field epidemiologists were the ones who minimised the scourge of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Nigerian by conducting contact tracking and making sure no person who has been in contact with the victims were missed.
He also asked for the government to honour epidemiologists who lost their lives during the Ebola outbreak.
Epidemiologists are indispensable - minister
The Minister of State for Health, Adeleke Mamora, while appreciating the efforts of epidemiologists in the country said the government will intensify it effort in providing health security for the nation.
Mr Mamora said applied epidemiologists are becoming more relevant and crucial for public health action.
He said the sporadic annual outbreaks of communicable diseases in the country such as Lassa fever, yellow fever, monkeypox, measles, cholera and other infectious diseases have made it very critical for the government to improve on human resources for health.
"Perhaps more than we have previously realised, the world views applied epidemiology as a critical function for public health action. It is clear that changing environment and population dynamics, along with improved capability to detect infectious cases, are also increasing.