The provision of basic social amenities such as clean water and electricity will go a long way in reducing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases in the country, a medical practitioner, Leo Egbujiobi has said.
Mr Egbujiobi is the president of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacist and Pharmaceutical Scientists in America, (NAOPPSA).
He is also a practicing cardiologist as well as a pharmacist in the United States.
Lack of Amenities
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja, on Monday, Mr Egbujiobi said the lack of social amenities in the country is part of the contributing factors to the increasing rate of non-communicable disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
“I think if we look at the society, there are three things we can do in Nigeria that will make a lot of difference. Clean water, in terms of public health perspective will go a long way to remove some diseases we have.
“A good supply of electricity will go a long way to improve our health. Those two things constitute the basic life. If they can’t drink water, if they can’t have electricity that allows them to freeze the food they cooked yesterday so it doesn’t get rotten is not going to work,” he said.
Mr Egbujiobi said high blood pressure is a problem because many people do not know they have it.
He said high blood pressure though on the increase in Africa is a global disease and not necessarily the disease of Africa.
“Half of the patients I treat even in the US are there to see me in emergency because of High blood pressure,” he said.
Mr Egbujiobi, however, lamented that the problem with Africa is that “we are not figuring it.”
He said if the problem of high blood pressure can be fixed, Nigeria will reduce mortality rate from the disease by 20 to 30 per cent.
He said this will also reduce the risk of stroke by nearly 40 to 50 per cent.
“The risk of kidney failure is also down. The risk of dying sudden death is reduced magnanimously,” he said.
Change of lifestyle
What it takes to deal with high blood pressure “is to check the pressure and monitor it and make sure that (if) the pressure is high on two different times, then diagnosis will follow,” the expert said.
He, however, said it is not always when there is a diagnosis that drugs are required.
He explained that three things need to be done. First is the change of diet and reduction in salt intake.
Mr Egbujiobi said food high in salt increases blood pressure and also makes it difficult to treat.
He also advised on quitting smoking because “smoking interferes with the medication we use to treat high blood pressure. Smoking mixed with alcohol increases blood pressure.”
He said as a pharmacist, he knows that less than half of medical problems require medication.
“You don’t have to give medicine for every condition,” he said. “When we take care of the prevention part, the next stage is treatment for individuals who have challenges with diets, exercise, smoking and alcohol, and get them to address such. “Then we come to the simple medications.”
He said the bad news about high blood pressure is that it does not occur alone. He said it, most times, comes along with diabetes and elevated cholesterol.
He said the good thing, however, about that is that most of them have the same path way to treatment.
“Simple exercise regularly done reduces both blood pressure and diabetes. The people stopping smoking, stopping alcohol, and illicit drug use will reduce the risk of diabetes.
“So it’s an opportunity and a challenge. Opportunity in that in simple things we do within public health education will reduce the disease consequences.
“Challenge in the sense that if we don’t take care of these things, we are doomed to catastrophic illness in the young.
“These illness, high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco use requires a conceptual of the nurse, the doctor, the pharmacist, the public health, the media, the federal government and local government in giving opportunity education in any language that everybody will understand.
“Media attention is important to improving our healthcare system, via WhatsApp, web, you tube. (They) all are important,” he said
Another medical doctor practicing in the U.S., Uche Aguwa, lamented that the rot in the health system in Nigeria has been a contributing factor to high cases of non-communicable diseases in the country.
She said there is a need for the government to allocate more resources to the health sector because the health system is bad as compared to that of countries like Brazil and Mexico.
“I have seen so many patients here who have never seen a doctor and a lot of them are in their fifties or something, that should never be the case.
According to her, to reposition healthcare delivery in Nigeria, the hospitals need to be equipped with the right tools. There are lots of patients who have heart problems and they have never had a Electrocardiography (EKG/ECG) before.
“How can a doctor who is a cardiologist take care of a heart patient in Nigeria without getting an EKG? I have met a lot of Nigerian doctors who told me that when they were at medical school, there probably were two real EKG.
“When I go to work in the US, when I work 12 hours shift, I often see 20 or more EKGS, I read them every day. I see a lot of it especially when people come in with chest pain. I work in the emergency unit so I see like 20 EKGs in an hour. We should have things like that in Nigeria health care system, things like that are very basic, that is one way to start.
“The government needs to put equipment in the health centres and clinics. We have good physicians in the country but when the system is very poor, they start venturing away,” she said.