Should The Government or The Masses Be Held Responsible For Loopholes in Public Health? – Dr. Kelechi Okoro Speaks

From security, to power, to food, to governance, to health and much more, Nigeria seem to be fighting too many wars and yet wins at none. In this episode of HotTalkWithBlecyn, the spotlight is on public health; the role of government and individuals.

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The major public health challenges Nigeria faces are infectious diseases, sewage disposal, health insurance, water supply, air pollution, noise pollution, environmental radiation, housing, solid waste disposal, disaster management, control of vector some diseases, doctor-population ratio, population-bed ratio, population per health facility, payment system/methods, utilization of care, access to care, improper co-ordination of donor funds, material mortality, infant mortality, health financing, poor sanitation and hygiene, incessant doctors strike, disease surveillance, smoking of tobacco, brain drain, rapid urbanization, non-communicable diseases, alcohol abuse, environment degradation, road traffic injuries etcetera. Quite a lot right? And according to WHO, the health indicator for Nigeria are among the worst in the world as Nigeria shoulders 10% of global disease burden. Nigerians will continue to die unnecessarily from preventable conditions and disease if there are no proper programs designed to address each of these problems.

Speaking from a professional point of view, Dr. Kelechi Okoro shares her thought on the role government and citizens has to play in order for Nigeria to have a stable and reliable public health sector. Continue below for the except from my tweetchat with Dr. Kel (The Healthertainer)

Blecyn George Monso: Here is to warmly welcome you @Healthertainer on #HotTalkWithBlecyn On a personal note, what makes you standout amongst your colleagues and what have you brought to the practice?

Dr. Kelechi Okoro: One thing that has made me stand out is my method of health delivery. I do this in a very relaxed ambiance which makes it more relatable and palatable. I also ensure not to bamboozle my audience with a lot of medical terms, instead I break it down to the simplest form possible making it easily understandable to the layman. I also make is very entertaining. That’s the catch for me. I keep my audience glued to health issues by bringing out funny aspects to it whilst passing across the vital information.

Even in my workplace, I try to apply the same tactics while handling patients, caring not just about treating illnesses but also showing interest in their entire social and mental wellbeing.

Briefly educate us on what we should know about “Public Health” and the dangers that loopholes in public health pose.

Public health is the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society (Acheson, 1998;WHO)Public health services include providing conditions under which people can maintain a healthy lifestyle, improve their health and wellbeing or prevent deterioration of their healthPublic health focuses not only on eradication or prevention of diseases, but covers also the entire spectrum of health and wellbeing.Public health is multidisciplinary. It takes into account the entire aspects of health; physical,mental,social, environmental, behavioral, occupational well being.If there are loopholes in Public health services, the quality of life in the society is greatly reduced. if there are loopholes in public health services, there is reduced productivity in the society.Health information communications are done at different levels by public health officials at local,state and national levels.

What is public health information and who are those responsible for communicating health information?

Public Health Information system is a system of generating, analyzing and disseminating health information. It involves establishing and implementing a framework for public health information.Public Health Information systems are designed to enable consistent exchange of health data for the purpose of disseminating health information to improve health literacy and influence personal health choicesHealth information communications are done at different levels by public health officials at local,state and national levels and also by individuals and private organizations who are interested in promoting health and wellness.

What is the role of public health officials? And if you are asked to review and rate, how would you rate public health officials in Nigeria?

Public health officials perform a wide range of services in the community. it ranges from supervising patient treatments, counselling, a bridge between poor patients to accessible and vital health care. They also act as health educatorsPublic health officials are also involved in training non health personnels in the community to initiate and replicate basic outreach programs to help their communitiesI would say the attitude of public health officials in Nigeria is not really encouraging and they can be partly attributed to flaws in the primary health care system. Absenteeism in health facilities is very common problem. There is a lot of Incompetence in the system. Some officials are not adequately trained, some have not received any updates in their training for over 10 years while some are left to work unsupervised for a very long time.

Are all public health officials trained health workers? If no, how active do you think their seasonal training help improve the health sector?

A public health official undergoes the necessary training required for them to earn the title, Public health official.
Seasonal training of public health workers is important for more effective performance and to update their knowledge and skills in their fields of practice. Yes, There is a need for seasonal training and capacity building of existing officials.

What are the basic goals of public health?

Basic goals of Public health intervention is to prevent and manage diseases through surveillance of cases and promotion of healthy behaviors, communities and environments.This includes provision of basic amenities; portable water, Safe food, clean environment, Vaccination against infectious diseases, and adopting programs and initiatives that ensure a healthier and more productive society. Focus of public health is basically on Health surveillance, health promotion, disease prevention, population health assessment and emergency preparedness

What is the roles of government in public health; using Nigeria as a case study, what are the necessary machinery we need.

Government should be involved in public health directly and indirectly through legislature, implementing health policies, advocacy and other programs.-We need more public health workers. The ones already working need seasonal trainings to improve efficacy.-There are a lot of health policies on paper which still haven’t been implemented.- there is inadequate and functional surveillance systems as well as strong leadership principles.- Public health facilities should be equipped with drugs, medical supplies and infrastructure-the government needs to increase health expenditure to finance the health care sectorIt is government’s responsibility to implement effective public health measures that promote quality health delivery and information, protect people from harm and create healthier societiesHowever the onus is not on government alone. As individuals and as a society should also play a strategic role in public health

How does advertising of alcohol and tobacco products to youths affect public health?

When harmful information is made available to youth it affects their health because Youths are greatly influenced by marketing and advertisement of products especially when influenced by role models. They may be tempted to indulge for the simple reason that their role models are associated with the advertised products.

What roles does the public have to play to improve operations in public health.

Prevention starts from you and I!As individuals we have a vital role to play in public health. It starts with you. If you protect yourself from infectious diseases, you protect others too (by not infecting them when you are already infected)More individuals should take up causes in public health that they are passionate about and drive them through Health campaigns and advocacy. A lot of NGOs are already contributing hugely to public health operations and i will like to encourage more people to do so.Individuals should adopt healthier lifestyles, keep their environment clean and vector free to eliminate diseases.

In your own understanding what is public health crisis and who should be held responsible for PHC, the government or the public?

When the occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition brings about significant negative impacts on community health, loss of life, and on the economy, it is a considered a public health crisis.The lackadaisical attitude of the government as well as the public towards health are contributory factors

Should Public Health service be considered as part of Social Responsibility?

Yes it can be.

Dr. Kelechi Okoro

Kelechi L. Okoro, is a Graduate of Medicine and Surgery, with keen interest in Public health. She is a Public and mental health advocate Hosting regular health talks online and offline. She is Known as the Healthertainer in the Social Media world. She is warm, loving, friendly, caring and passionate while Educating and influencing lives globally. She has quite a wide reach to Health update: She is a top Digital media strategist and brand influencer focused on entire spectrum of health and wellbeing. Currently a Doctor in the Government House Clinic, Kogi state, Nigeria, Initiator of The Hep Free Zone Project and Co- Founder, Health Savvy Initiative. She is also a Top Digital Media Strategist.

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