Why Nigerians don’t seek medical attention early – Experts

A primary healthcare facility
A primary healthcare facility

Nigerians do not seek early medical attention because of the high poverty rate in the country and lack of adequate health information, some experts have said.

The President, Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA), Charmain Emelife, said this while speaking with PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja on Monday during a medical outreach organised by the association.

The medical outreach was organised in collaboration with the Nigerian Association of Pharmacist and Pharmaceutical Scientist in America, (NAOPPSA), Business and Professional Women Nigeria (BPW), Junior Chambers International (JCI), Dagomo Foundation and others.

The medical outreach, a six-day mission, holds April 5 to 10. It will provide free ophthalmological, dental, and surgical services to less privileged Nigerians.

The medical outreach will hold in two locations in the Nigerian capital, Abuja: Juwa and Tugan Kwasou.

All the surgeries are being done at the Kubwa General hospital.

Ms Emelife said there is a need for the government to embark on proper grassroots education to encourage people to make informed and timely decisions about their health.

She said healthcare delivery is also affected by ‘high poverty’ in the country.

Ms Emelife, a nephrologist, said most Nigerians present their health issues late because they do not have adequate knowledge on how diseases transform.

This, she said, affects their health decision-making process.

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Ms Emelife said people need primary healthcare providers and also need the right education “so that they can abandon their beliefs that are wrong.”

“There are lots of people peddling instruction and information that is not correct. A patient doesn’t understand that hypertension is ‘lifetime’ and needs to be treated daily.

“They think they have been given drugs, treated and it’s done. We don’t have that culture of yearly medical checkups. As such follow up care for grassroots education is necessary for them to understand that if you are diagnosed with hypertension, it means that you are hypertensive for life,” she said.

Ms Emelife said there is a need for a channel “in which the right people are the ones providing information”.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there. A diabetic patient that I saw this morning said he has not eaten and has not taken his medicine.

“I can’t even treat you effectively if you have not even taken what you have been given so we need to start proper grassroots education. Training the right people to give the right information is very important,” she said.

Leo Egbeijobi, a doctor practising in America, said a lot has gone wrong with healthcare at the rural level “and there is a need to revive it”.

Mr Egbeijobi, also a pharmacist, is the president, Nigerian Association of Pharmacist and Pharmaceutical Scientist in America (NAOPPSA).

According to him, “simple things we do within public health education will reduce the disease consequences and go a long way on preventive measures.”

“Back then, there were good things in the rural areas that are not there anymore. The local area is no longer protected. There is pollution, there are people coming out from outside to inside with saturation of the urban life. And there is a lack of education and information on how to take care of simple things like vaccination.

“If there is anything we need to improve, we need to go back to the old system of having community health clinics, to be managed by healthcare workers, coordinated by healthcare nurses, supported by healthcare pharmacist and supervised by healthcare doctors”.

Another visiting doctor, Uche Aguwa, said “judging by the people she has attending to so far, knowledge of their health is very poor.”

She said: “A lot of people come in saying they have typhoid or malaria, or (high) blood pressure and most of the time they do not have any of the ailments”.

She said the notion that they (patients) know what they are suffering from makes treatment difficult “because the physician needs to take time to start explaining to them.”

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