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Pitan seeks investment on mothers, infants’ health for sustainable national development


A mother and her baby

A mother and her baby

Advocates mandatory health insurance for all, incorporation of TBAs, religious institutions

GIVING priority to the health of women and children with special focus on primary healthcare since they have health needs different from those of the general population has been described as critical in promoting sustainable development.

Similarly, public health must be sensitive to the special needs of the family by providing appropriate health promotion, disease prevention and medical care and support programmes for each member of the family and the family as a whole.

These were the views of the former health and education commissioner in Lagos State, Dr. Adeleke Pitan, at the inaugural yearly lecture of Chartered Institute of Environment and Public Health Management of Nigeria (CIEPHMN) in Lagos, last week where he was the guest lecturer.

Speaking on the topic, “Investing in Reduced Maternal and Child Mortality for Sustainable National Development: Issues, Challenges and Options”, Pitan said that there should be serious investment in keeping mothers and children healthy, stating that their multi-tasks as individuals, workers, wives, mothers and daughters and their subsequent lifelong responsibilities for knowledge, self-care, and family leadership in health related issues calls for the investment and national attention.

Giving the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) statistics of Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in Nigeria to be 630 deaths/100,000 live births (2010), and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) as 74.09 deaths/1000 live births (2014), he noted that even though the rates have reduced by a yearly average of 3 per cent for IMR and 3.3 per cent for MMR, it is poor compared to the reduction rate within the same time frame of a country like Belarus whose MMR fell with 13 per cent.

The MMR includes deaths during pregnancy, childbirth, or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, for a specified year, while IMR is the number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1000 live births in the same year.

Pitan said that the MMR and IMR of any country suggest the value and resources that are placed on health by that country, adding, “With the values that we have in Nigeria, it isn’t painting a good picture and it is not far from the truth.”

The former health commissioner citing United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted that every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. He pointed out that this statistics makes the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world, stating, “It is integral to invest in reducing infant and maternal mortality not only to promote sustainable development but to save millions of lives.”

Pitan disclosed that many countries and organizations around the world have invested with great success in reducing maternal and child mortality but however noted that Nigeria were not able to meet the Millennium Development Goals because of lack of proper actions.

He quoted the Executive Director, UNICEF, Anthony Lake who said: “sustainable development starts and ends with safe, healthy and well-educated children.”

Pitan went ahead to proffer solutions to tackle the problem. However calling for a behavioral change from healthcare professionals and the general public first, he called for the need to focus on achievable interventions such as training various cadres of the healthcare team to meet the human resource demand.

Among the healthcare teams Pitan sought for their training is the Traditional Birth Attendants and Religious Institutions. He noted that these people are very important part of the country’s healthcare sector but are often neglected. He called for a structured training for them and a plan to get them registered to make them accountable.

This he said would aid them manage pregnancies and deliveries with better outcomes and and further ensures easy referrals to healthcare facilities when they encounter difficult cases.

“The hallmark of any successful policy is the incorporation and integration of the people’s cultural values into its implementation in order to get their buy-in, and ensure their participation. Nigeria is a pot pouring of cultures and practices, with the people having beliefs and practices related to their health that are not consistent with modern medicine. From North to South, East to West, Nigerians patronize traditional medical practitioners who have an immense influence on the people as it relates to their well-being. Especially, with regards to maternal and child health, there are many practices, procedures and materials utilized by this group of caregivers that often compound rather than resolve people’s medical problems.

“Efforts should therefore be made to properly integrate these traditional medical practitioners into the Nigerian healthcare delivery system. Concerted efforts should be made to develop and ensure their training, certification and licensure to practice their trade. Doing so would ensure standardization and would provide an opportunity for the people who patronize t avoid getting inappropriate care that could further worsen their morbidity or lead to death,” Pitan said.

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