Why NHF coopted Nollywood stars in fight against heart diseases, by stakeholders
As part of efforts to reduce rising cases and deaths due to heart diseases in the country, the Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) has partnered with Nollywood stars to create more awareness on heart diseases and ways to ensure healthy hearts.
The partnership was ahead of the World Heart Day, which is yearly observed on September 29 to inform people about heart diseases, which is the number one cause of death worldwide, claiming 18.6 million lives per year.
Speaking on the topic, “Spreading the messages; everybody on board”, the Executive Director of NHF, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, said that the influence of Nollywood in passing messages remains huge, hence the need to use the channel in order to reduce heart related diseases. According to him, despite the fact that the foundation has done a lot of awareness campaigns, many Nigerians are not still aware that, globally, heart diseases is the number one cause of death worldwide. Akinroye revealed that out of about 520 million people living with health diseases worldwide, about 20 million people lose their lives to these diseases. He said since the breakout of COVID-19, these numbers of cases have increased drastically and evidence of research conducted shows that most people who die from COVID have underlining heart diseases. “People with COVID19 and heart diseases are among those with the highest risk of death and of developing severe conditions,” he said.
The cardiologist said this year’s theme, “Use Heart To Connect” is a call to action to individuals, professionals like actors and actresses, communities and governments, to use “their heart to connect to make informed choices for society, our loved ones and ourselves.”
The director called on telecommunication operators to find and develop the infrastructure to reach disconnected hearts everywhere, adding that the government needed to prioritise heart health in policies, digital infrastructure to improve telemedicine in our towns and rural communities.
Akinroye also called on the government to strengthen pharmaceutical industries in making drugs affordable and accessible.
NHF’s major partners for 2021 are Nollywood actors and actresses who have been selected as “Nigerian Heart Foundation Ambassadors”. Ten Nollywood members have been nominated and have been given Nigerian Health Foundation full-membership while three Nollywood members have been nominated as Ambassadors of Nigerian Health Foundation to propagate advocacy and awareness on heart diseases.
Akinroye said that Segun Odegbami, a soccer legend, remains a long- standing ambassador of the NHF, who had been working among school children and youths in Nigeria on prevention of heart diseases. While giving his welcome address virtually, the Chairman, Executive Council, NHF, Dr. Femi Mobolaji Lawal said cardiovascular diseases is the number one killer disease worldwide as it kills about six million people every year.
According to him, some of the causes of heart diseases are: use of tobacco, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol and air pollution. “If these factors are controlled, then 80 per cent of premature deaths from heart diseases could be avoided,” Lawal said.
He advised the new ambassadors to use their role and influence in the Nollywood industry to spread the messages to the entire public.
Moji Oyetayo a.k.a. Mama Ajasco, who spoke on behalf of other NHF ambassadors, said that the messages about heart diseases and ways to ensure heart health would get to doorsteps of Nigerians through scripts and other media.
She explained that this is a very good opportunity for her as it will give her a wider outreach to more people especially the youths to let them understand that whatever they put in themselves can either give them long life or shorten their lives.
Oyetayo, the immediate past chairman, Actors Guild of Nigeria, Lagos state chapter, said that the ambassadors would not take the task of creating awareness about heart diseases for granted.
She said: “My colleagues and I are extremely grateful to come on board at this time. This is the time the entertainment industry is losing lots of giants due to various health issues.
“We are going to use various platforms to reach more people, the more we speak these words out, the more people would listen to us because people tend to believe what they see us do. We are going to ensure we also act according to what we say.
“We will be doing a lot of seminars and empowerment programs to help pass these messages to the public especially the youths on behaviors that affect their hearts.
“Next year by Gods grace, we would have been able to touch more lives and organize symposiums, seminars, billboards, to reach out to the youth and general public, we will also have movies, skits to reflect these messages.”
The video “Stars for Healthy Heart” was premiered and certificates of recognition were presented to the Nollywood stars as brand ambassador in appreciation of their contributions to the promotion of heart health.