GlobalHealthAfrica

Posts Tagged ‘Africa Health’

Spotlight: Organizations Making a Difference in African Healthcare

In Community Health, Healthcare, Medicine on April 22, 2014 at 3:25 am

Global Health Africa aims to spotlight organizations that are making a difference in African healthcare. In this post, GHA Blogger Udo Obiechefu sheds light on the work the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation accomplishes during its medical missions. 

Although much of the emphasis on improving health care in Africa is placed on governments and large scale international aid organizations, it is important to note the important work that is done by foundations and organizations who do not receive a large portion of the spotlight. These organizations, at times, are the primary source of medical treatment and attention for many Africans, young and old. In this piece, I speak with the Executive Director of the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation (NHF) in an effort to shed light on the work the organization accomplishes during its medical missions, gain a better understanding of the challenges they face, and provide insight into their operations.

Name: Ijeoma Obilo

Current title and years in current role: Executive Director (10 years)

Over the course of the NHF’s existence, important medical missions have been made by the foundation to Nigeria. What health care issues have been found to be the most prevalent?

The healthcare issues range from minute health check-ups to severe health complications that require surgery. We have seen it all. The majority of our patients do not have access to healthcare. They do not have the financial means to pay for medicine and health check-ups. So when the NHF arrives on the ground with our medical team and supplies, we go straight to work. On average, we treat almost 200 patients a day and provide them with food, necessities for their children, medicine and more.

health

As a follow-up to the first question, has there been any noticeable improvement in any key health outcomes over the course of the NHF’s missions to Nigeria?

Yes, the improvements are shocking! Many of the children that visit our mobile site are malnourished and after just two weeks of the NHF being on the ground, you can visibly see the difference in the children and the adults. They gain weight and they look more healthy and vibrant. Not only do we provide medical care, we also provide 2-3 square meals a day to whoever comes to receive medical attention. We provide children and young people with school supplies and also provide nursing mothers with vitamins and baby essentials. We believe in treating the body, heart and mind.

What are some of the typical obstacles that arise during mission trips? How are they overcome?

Our mission trip is a truly inspiring and life changing experience for anyone who joins us. Some of the obstacles that often arise during our mission trips are being able to provide enough medicine for those that we treat. When the word spreads that the NHF has arrived, hundreds of people come daily from neighboring towns and villages to seek treatment. We want to be able to treat as many people as possible and to date have not turned anyone away, and we never will.

What is the reception like from the local government/community?

The community welcomes us with open arms! They are truly appreciative of our services and benefit immensely from our free health care services. We provide medication, hygiene necessities, treat ailments and more. They are receiving care from highly trained doctors, medical residents and health practitioners. At least we can attest that they are receiving care at least once a year because we exist. Hopefully we will be able to build a clinic so that we can see patients all year round and they can receive necessary health treatments. We look forward to partnering and collaborating with Imo State government on more initiatives.

What, in the opinion of the NHF, are the key issues facing Nigerian healthcare in the next 20 years.

Access to quality care which can be achieved through affordable and safe healthcare within Nigeria.

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Health Inequalities: Wealth is Health

In Health Policies on February 1, 2013 at 5:00 am

The slogan on the Global Health Africa website reads “Health is Wealth” but “Wealth is also Health”. By wealth I mean various resources -power, education, employment, inheritance, living conditions-which gives one individual an advantage over another. Possession of any of these resources increases one’s likelihood of a better health.  A number of researchers have written about the influence of these socio-economic factors on one’s health; most notably, Michael Marmot. Below we discuss the link between these factors and health as well as implications for organizational policy.

Exploring the link between Wealth and Health

In his article published in a 2005 edition of the Lancet, Marmot provides an apt description of the variation in health outcomes within countries, by socio-economic status. Using Indonesia, Brazil, India and Kenya as examples, under-5 childhood mortality was shown to be highest among the poorest households in all these countries. While in Bangladesh, mortality rate among men differed by educational status

poorest of poor As a result, Marmot warns that addressing surface public health issues may not be the solution. Rather, there is a need to identify the causes of causes by examining the social conditions in which individuals live and work. Still, I am not in full agreement with his suggested methods for addressing these social conditions as they comprise of policies such as cash transfer programmes, which may encourage dependency on government welfare and are largely, unsustainable.

A recent example of health inequalities between nations can be seen in the newly released Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Washington.  Wealthy Western and Asian countries have the longest years of healthy life expectancy while some of the poorest African Nations are at the bottom of the ladder. So the question is: How can public health organizations address these health inequalities in Africa?

Changing the way we work

There is no one size fits for addressing health inequalities in Africa neither do I claim to know it all. Still, I make some suggestions.

  1. People empowerment approach rather than a people giving approach: A widely used proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Governmental and non-governmental public health organizations need to recognize that ill-health and premature death is often times a symptom of social conditions. Therefore, in planning public health interventions, it is pertinent to include measures that will aid individuals to acquire skills needed for self subsistence. This could include training breadwinners on business skills, providing loans for start-ups, as well as scholarships.
  2. Targeted interventions: This would ensure that the poorest of the poor have access to health information and services, education and an opportunity for their voice to be heard
  3. Working together: It is imperative that public health and non-public health organization work together  to ensure that there is a focus on community priorities rather than organizational agenda
  4. Research and Advocacy: A lot of work still needs to be done to identify best practices for addressing health inequalities in African nations. There is also a need for organizations to advocate for policies that address the needs of the poorest of the poor in African Nations.

So what do you think? How best can health inequalities in Africa be addressed?

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