Six health concerns Nigerians should monitor to prevent emergencies

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Have you noticed that health indicators in Nigeria are some of the worst in Africa? Nigeria is responsible for a high number of under-five child deaths? UNICEF said in a recent report that “preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70% of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria.”

Now one may ask; is the problem lack of medical personnel? Maybe, but there’s more.

Hardly a year passes without a major national strike by nurses, doctors, or health consultants. The major reasons for these strikes are poor salaries and a lack of government investment in the health sector. Unfortunately, many Nigerians cannot afford private hospitals; they are simply too expensive.

Here are six common health concerns Nigerians should monitor.

MALARIA

Nigeria still has the highest burden of malaria globally which remains the top cause of child illness and death. Efforts to decrease the number of malaria-related deaths in pregnant women and children each year are currently done by increasing access to and availability of treatment, insecticide-treated bed nets, and re-treatment kits. Between 2010 and 2015, malaria interventions through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) resulted in a 36 percent reduction in malaria parasites found in the blood of children under age five, per the Malaria Indicator Survey. PMI/Nigeria has scaled up malaria control interventions and since 2014 has distributed 22 million mosquito bed nets, 14 million malaria rapid diagnostic test kits, over 48 million treatments courses for malaria, and eight million doses of medication to prevent malaria in pregnancy.

HEART DISEASE

In June 2016, Stephen Keshi, former Super Eagles head coach, died at age 58 of a suspected cardiac arrest. Four days later, Shuaibu Amodu, another former Super Eagles coach, was found dead in his bed, aged 54, after complaining of chest pains the night before. There are countless stories of other young Nigerians who have just apparently “slumped and died.” These stories all affirm a growing epidemic of heart disease in Nigeria and other low and middle-income countries.

According to the latest WHO data published in 2018 Coronary Heart Disease Deaths in Nigeria reached 108,578 or 5.60% of total deaths. The age-adjusted Death Rate is 197.37 per 100,000 population ranks Nigeria #31 in the world.

The Nigerian health system is not focused on the high rate of heart diseases; and as a country, Nigeria is not prepared for it. In primary healthcare, a lot of awareness and promotion has been ongoing. The awareness, care, and prevention are still very poor.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

76.2 million Nigerians are hypertensive but only 23 million are on treatment. According to research, this number is calculated as 30.7% among men and 25.2% among women. One of the risk factors for heart disease is high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, this condition is particularly troublesome for Nigerians. High blood pressure is difficult to manage without adequate access to care. While it rarely shows any symptoms, it can lead to very severe health complications such as stroke and heart disease. It could even result in death in some extreme cases.

While some underlying conditions can cause high blood pressure, the exact cause in most people is unknown. Some factors that science has proven to cause high blood pressure include age, race, lifestyle, family history, pregnancy, stress, smoking, and alcohol use.

Seek emergency care if your blood pressure reading is 180/120 or higher AND you have any of the following symptoms, which may be signs of organ damage:

  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Numbness or weakness.
  • Change in vision.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Severe headache.

 CANCER

In Nigeria, cancer leads to over 70 000 deaths per annum (28 414 for males and 41 913 for females). The estimated incidence for the top five commonest types of cancer are: breast cancer (25.7%), cervix uteri (14.6%), prostate (12.8%), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (5.3%), and liver (5.0). While estimated mortality rates are: breast cancer (18.6%), cervix uteri (16.8%), prostate (9.4%), liver (8.3%), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (6.0%). Breast cancer is now the leading cancer death in Nigeria, while cervical cancer is the second and prostate cancer is the third.

In Nigeria, some 100 000 new cases of cancer occur every year, with a high case fatality ratio. Compounding these trends, inadequate access to care leads to poorer outcomes. For example, by not getting referred to cancer treatments like chemotherapy early, the disease progresses faster, leading to more complications and higher death rates.

The mean age of diagnosis of all cancers in men for Ibadan and Abuja were 51.1 and 49.9 years respectively. For women, the mean age of diagnosis of all cancers in Ibadan and Abuja were 49.1 and 45.4 respectively. Breast and cervical cancer were the commonest cancers among women and prostate cancer was the most common among men.

DIABETES

Diabetes, or high blood sugar, also is an area of concern for Nigerians, the growing number of people living with diabetes mellitus in Nigeria is worrisome and an explosion in the number of diabetic patients may be imminent if urgent measures are not taken to address the trend.

Experts say it is getting more common worldwide with the number of affected people rising yearly with projections showing that Africa and Nigeria in particular, is likely to experience the highest increase soon. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that by 2040, the global prevalence of diabetes is likely to affect 10 percent of humanity.

Currently, diabetes care is poorly coordinated, especially at the primary and secondary public health care centers. Nigeria is currently the most affected country in Africa. It is estimated that over four million Nigerians are living with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and findings show that more than 50 per cent of the persons with diabetes in the country are unaware that they have the disease.

STROKE

In Nigeria, stroke is the most common medical emergency in most hospitals and accounts for up to eight out of 10 neurological hospital admissions with at least 200,000 cases occurring every year. Stroke is a leading cause of death and neurological disability in adults and imposes a heavy emotional and financial burden on the family and society. It is a major problem, and the major predisposing factor remains uncontrolled hypertension. The case fatality is very high and there is a risk of moderate to severe neurological disability among the survivors.

Preventing Disease to Close the Gap

How do we reverse this trend? Preventing illness is much easier and less costly than treating it. I encourage all Nigerians regardless of tribes and beliefs to take ownership of their health. By getting routine preventive health screenings like blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checks; age-appropriate screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies; and an annual physical exam, you’re taking steps to ensure disease can be caught and treated at its earliest stage.

Most importantly it is highly imperative that Nigerians get a medical emergency plan, as the lack of a medical emergency plan could lead to severe losses such as multiple casualties and possible financial collapse of an individual when emergencies arise.

For more details on how to choose the right medical emergency plans to visit our website: https://emergencyresponseafrica.com/our-plans/

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