Ebonyi State-born renowned epidemiologist, Dr Christopher Ogbonnaya Ogbu, who recently returned to Nigeria after spending 43 years in the United States of America, advises that maintaining healthy living lies solely on individuals rather than government.
In a layman’s language, what is epidemiology all about?
It is one of the branches of science that deals with the study of the spread and control of diseases, the professionals are known as preventers of possible diseases, so the course centres on the study of infectious diseases while the personnel are saddled with the principal function of preventing diseases and giving vaccine in the clinic.
For instance, during the case of guinea worm, its solution was not found until after the epidemiologists had waded into the situation by stopping people from drinking unclean water, the profession can also be known as preventive medicine because it is all about doing those little things that need to be done for one to be well.
How can you relate the discipline to our daily life?
It is applicable to both animate and inanimate objects, our individual vehicles and houses can serve as a case study, if one does not take good care of them, they will begin to spoil, same thing with a farmer, after cultivation and the person fails to maintain the crops, he or she is prone to encounter loss, this is how it works for human beings, we ought to be conscious of those requirements needed for body maintenance.
I can recall that during Nigeria/Biafra civil war where people were experiencing Kwashiokor, I was among the persons who were preparing and serving food to the public, then over 5,000 patients who were found at Onicha Central School, Egunkwo in present day Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, were not given any medicine rather they recovered through the foods supplied by World Health Organisation (WHO), Catholic Charity Organisation and the Seventh Day Adventists.
The preventive medicine can be applied to transportation and traffic, I do cry every day when I see people driving vehicles or riding motorcycle recklessly without weighing the implication, if one visits accident unit of general hospitals, the person will see a large number of victims of road crashes; some with simple or compound fractures, broken hands and cracked heads.
The relatives of those persons are being subjected to different forms of pains because of the carelessness of either the driver or motorcycle operator. In application of preventive medicine to the situation, the professionals will produce a great quantity of booklets containing traffic rules and regulations, make them available in many languages and share to road users and as a result reduce the crashes.
As earlier said that one’s health is in his or her hand; meaning that people should not be waiting for medical doctors’ pieces of advice before they can protect their health from all forms of danger. We won’t wait for someone to tell us what to do, eat or how to avoid getting injured.
In the case of road crashes, epidemiologist would study the factors mechanically, emotionally, medically such as eyes check-up and general wellbeing or otherwise and possibly work on the causes to avoid reoccurrence
In this part of the world, people are in the habit of washing one hand before eating some foods as fufu or Eba perhaps as a result of pride or other beliefs, what can you say about such attitude?
Such act tantamount to soaking bacteria and get it ready for consumption; it is similar with when somebody washes his hand inside bowl being carried by someone else. In this situation, there is tendency that the person being served will not wash his or hand appropriately.
Which other areas do you think that diseases can be prevented through hygiene?
If communities can construct toilets capable of serving everyone, it will go a long way in reducing disease outbreak in the areas because with such action open defecation cannot be noticed, at the hinterland, you can see people going into the bush to ease themselves without considering that before they could come out, they might have marched on other people’s excreta and in the long run return to their homes while having it under their foot wears.
My general advice is that people should always check the hygienic nature of every food before consumption, nutritionally, people should be told the value of fruits and vegetables even ironically, fruits and vegetables which are high nutritious appear to be cheaper than other foods.