WHO, NICRAT, others push for improved PHCs, health security in Nigeria

STAKEHOLDERS in Nigeria’s  health sector have advocated improved primary health care services, health funding and security to bolster the nation’s development agenda.

They made the call at the 7th Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) held at the weekend in Akwanga, Nasarawa state.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners sponsored the conference, which had the theme, “Health Security: Nigeria’s Efforts to Achieve Universal Health Coverage.”,

The Special Adviser on Health to the President, Salma Anas-Kolo, said Tinubu was committed to health security, universal coverage and general healthcare upgrades in Nigeria.

Speaking on the importance of PHCs in achieving the goal, she said, “The PHC is the fulcrum for a resilient health system and should be structured to deliver services that will support the attainment of UHC and guarantee health security. The PHC is the entry point into the health care service delivery system where 80 per cent of the health issues should be sorted out and essential with basic care needs provided.

“As a gateway to accessing health services, it should be designed to fit the purpose for proper functioning and operations to be prepared for the needs of the community where it is located. It should be a hub of positive interaction that gives hope and relieves anxieties and distress to whoever is there, whether as caregiver or client/patient.”

 Kolo maintained that PHCs should be community-owned and led for optimal utilisation and sustainability and should be linked to secondary care facilities for ease of referrals of cases requiring more expert attention.

She decried that the PHC level of care received the least attention and continues to add to the burden of morbidity and mortality especially due to pregnancy-related conditions, making it the weakest link of the health service delivery system. 

“In the integrated system that we are promoting, our aspiration is to ensure that as soon as a pregnant woman visits a healthcare facility, the quality and level of care she requires to deliver a healthy child is assured, including the payment for the services she would receive, ensuring that she is covered under one form of health insurance or the other.” 

In his presentation, the Technical Officer, Vaccine Preventable Diseases Cluster (VPD) at the WHO, Olayiwola Olanike, a doctor, highlighted the importance of multi-sectoral policies, epidemic prevention, and inclusive programmes to achieving universal health coverage.

Olayinka, who has a background in public health and environmental leadership, called for a shift toward low-carbon solutions and a better attention to disease prevention and control.

He called for.sustainable health practices in Nigeria  while sharing insights into the ongoing Federal Government  initiatives, such as “unlocking the economy” among others, aimed at fostering sustainable development and improving healthcare delivery.

In his remark, Country Director BudgIT, Gabriel Okeowo, highlighted the significance of improving access to healthcare through primary healthcare centres (PHCs).

He said PHCs were critical in a nation where access to quality healthcare remained a paramount concern.

He said community-based healthcare centres served as the cornerstone of any nation’s healthcare system, acting as the first line of defence and support for individuals and families, which makes it imperative for the government to give them the support they need.

The executive director of the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) Moji Makanjuola, said President Bola Tinubu did not fulfil his promise to earmark 10 per cent of the country’s annual budget to health in the 2024 budget proposal he submitted to the National Assembly in November.

The ICIR reports that the President promised 10 per cent of the budget to health, according to his Special Adviser on Health, Salma Annas-Kolo, a doctor.

“Do we have a double-digit for health in the budget? We are the voices, we are the hope for the health care delivery service in Nigeria,” Makanjuola said, as she challenged health journalists not to relent in reporting on issues in the sector.

She commended the health journalists for their commitment to reporting health issues, especially women and children

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), Usman Aliyu, a professor, said cancer remained a major challenge in the country. He promised his organisation would do its best to disrupt the killer disease in 2023.

Aliyu said statistics indicated that in 2020, an estimated 78,000 people died as a result of cancer-related complications. 

Out of the number, 44,699 were females, while 34,200 were males. It is estimated that there are over 120,000 new cancer cases every year in Nigeria, he noted.

He said that his organisation was determined to work with all relevant stakeholders to disrupt cancer in Nigeria through intense awareness creation and improved access to treatment and research.

“We have mapped out strategies to geometrically increase the number of cancer experts in the country through training and retraining all categories of health professionals.

“In our commitment and preparedness to disrupt all forms of cancers and ensure those with the illness have access to the best care and support in the country, we recently launched three strategic documents.

“The three documents include National Strategic Cancer Control Plan 2023-2027; National Cancer Research Agenda 2024-2027, and National Strategic Plan for Prevention of Cancer of Uterine Cervix 2023-2027,” he said.

He explained that the documents had priority areas of action that address governance, prevention, supply chain management, data and research, as well as surveillance, which he said were in tandem with the aim of the current leadership of the Ministry of Health to improve the health of all Nigerians.

He challenged Nigerians to pay close attention to their health by visiting the nearest health facility for regular checks.

In his welcome remark, ANHEJ president Joseph Kadiri said the conference brought together stakeholders from both the public and private space in the health sector to examine the Federal Government’s efforts to tackle the country’s poor health indices such as the maternal mortality rate, which is still among the highest in the world, with an estimated 512 deaths per 100,000 live births, a high under-five mortality rate of 117 per 1, 000 live births, and the rate of women that deliver outside health facilities at over 65 per cent, among other statistics. 



    According to him, the conference examined several disease outbreaks and ways of preventing future occurrences. 

    He listed diphtheria as one of the major disease outbreaks in the country.

    “All these ugly statistics can change for the better with adequate funding for the health sector. The allocation of N1.33 trillion representing five per cent of the entire 2024 proposed budget is abysmally low with reference to the ‘Abuja Declaration’ which stipulates the allocation of 15 per cent of the country’s annual budget to the health sector.”

    While urging the Federal Government to deploy more funds to the health sector and to implement the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) fully, he said tiers of government should make healthcare services available, accessible and affordable to Nigerians irrespective of social status.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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