WE heartily welcome the Federal Government’s plan to train public health disease detectives in its effort to prevent epidemics in the country. Such training has become necessary now that the country is recording recurring cases of meningitis, Lassa fever and the like. Making the disclosure, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, explained that the experts would create a platform for epidemiologists and public health physicians to share their scientific work with the public health audience.
Expectedly, the detectives would provide valuable information that could be used to determine where the next disease outbreak might happen as well as how it could be prevented. According to the NCDC boss, the Centre will coordinate the response to public health emergencies in the country. It will also enhance the country’s preparedness to check epidemics through the prevention, detection and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
The July 5-7, 2017 second scientific conference in Abuja, where this plan was disclosed, also discussed capacity building to curtail future epidemics. It was organised by the NCDC and the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP), Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), University of Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET). The conference was organised to address the challenges that followed the outbreaks of Ebola disease, Lassa fever and meningitis in Nigeria and other countries in the West African region.
We commend this bold initiative aimed at training epidemiologists and public health physicians particularly now that there are epidemics in the region. Nigeria’s lacklustre healthcare standing makes this training imperative. After the training, the public health disease detectives should be deployed to all parts of the country.
Government should complement their efforts by equipping our hospitals at the primary, secondary and tertiary care levels. Proper equipment of our health facilities and recruitment of adequate medical manpower will go a long way to improve our healthcare delivery system. But, this can only be done if all levels of government make adequate provisions for health in their budgets. The current national budgetary allocation to the health sector, at about four percent, will not properly address the challenges confronting the sector.
Government must make healthcare a top priority so that the nation can compete with other nations in all spheres of socio-economic development. We say this because most economically advanced countries strive to have good health systems, as they know that a healthy nation is a wealthy one.
A working healthcare system will also mean a halt to medical tourism that has made us a laughing stock in the comity of nations. If our health system is properly funded, prominent Nigerians will stop trooping to Europe, America and Asia for medical treatment.
The current brain drain among doctors and other health professionals is partly because of poor remuneration of health workers. This is one area in which the government has not done enough. The work of health professionals is so important that it should be adequately remunerated. If workers in the health sector are well paid, it will drastically halt the movement of our doctors and other health professionals to Europe and America. It has been reported that most black doctors working in Britain and the United States are from Nigeria. For us to get our health system working again, all tiers of government must work in concert to develop and adequately equip the sector.